India look to fare well

Big Three set to play their last Test in Australia on ‘greener’ Adelaide Oval track

Written by Karthikkrishnaswamy | Adelaide | Published: January 23, 2012 12:54:35 am

If you are assigned a spot in the back row of the Adelaide Oval press box,at its extreme left corner,a wall cuts off your view of nearly half the ground. The sloping roof above,meanwhile,chops off the spires of St. Peter’s Cathedral. You still see the pitch,thankfully.

On Sunday afternoon,it was a pale shade of green. A couple of days ago,curator Damien Hough had said that it would be a typical Adelaide wicket,with lots of runs in it,but that it would wear a layer more grass than usual.

“This has got a little bit more grass on it than probably last year’s Test pitch to just get a little bit more bounce out of the pitch,” he said. “We’re trying to get a pitch that has good bounce and carry.”

Pretty much every curator at every venue that India have visited over their last two overseas tours has said more or less the same thing. “This will be a good batting wicket with a little bit of help for the seamers on Day One.”

This,apart from a couple of exceptions where the ball seamed around throughout — Trent Bridge,the MCG — is exactly how these wickets have panned out. For the home side,that is. For most of the Indians,batting on them has proved beyond their technical ability. Home advantage,you would think,has played a significant part in which way the results have swung.

Gautam Gambhir certainly seems to think so. Asked whether he was surprised by the amount of grass he has seen on the wickets in England and Australia,he came up with an unexpectedly feisty reply.

“We need to realise that when we go overseas,every country prepares wickets to their own strengths. So once the other teams come home we need to prepare tracks to our advantage as well. So there should not be a lot of talk when Australia or South Africa or England come home that we should not be preparing turners. I think we should be playing to our strengths and if we can prepare rank turners,that’s where their technique and their temperament will be tested,” he said.

“We have seen in last three Tests matches and even in England,there was a lot of grass and that helped their seamers. Once these people come to India we should not be hesitant in making turners and that’s where we would get to know whether they are mentally strong and the kind of chitchat do they do when we go overseas and talk about our techniques.”

Over the last couple of years,the majority of Indian wickets have offered little encouragement to any kind of bowler. Intelligent visiting batsmen have been able to sit on the backfoot against the spinners and work the ball around,safe in the knowledge that any turn will be slow turn. In that sense,Gambhir makes a valid point.

England’s travails against Pakistan’s spinners provide further thrust to the argument that home advantage — even if Pakistan play in a dislocated home — is becoming a decisive factor in international cricket.

But the pitch in Dubai for the first Test provided only limited turn or bounce for Saeed Ajmal and co. They beat England not by spinning balls viciously past their bats but by deceiving them for length. On Day One,Andrew Strauss tried to pull Ajmal when he should have defended him off the front foot. Kevin Pietersen took a big stride forward for a ball he should have stayed back to. Ajmal’s clever use of backspin and topspin,respectively,brought about the dismissals. Not the pitch.

Turning it on

Gambhir’s statement isn’t the first of its kind in recent days. At the WACA,Ishant Sharma and Virat Kohli reportedly sledged David Warner (in response to the chitchat Gambhir talked about) by telling him to score runs when he comes to India. BCCI president N Srinivasan was then quoted as saying that India would comfortably beat England and Australia when they visited.

Whether or not Srinivasan made that statement — he denies it — the sentiment of “we’ll see when you guys come to India” has taken a worrying hold over Indian cricket. Australia didn’t comfort themselves with their home record when they went through a 39-year series drought in India. They willed themselves on,called it the final frontier and planned exhaustively before ending that drought in 2004.

For the best part of the last decade,the Indians were themselves driven by hurt and a desire to better their reputations overseas. They didn’t do it easy. Curators didn’t prepare wickets that suited them. Headingley,Sabina Park,the Wanderers,Trent Bridge,the WACA,Kingsmead – all these victories were achieved on wickets with movement or bounce or both.

On Tuesday,three men who played critical knocks in many of those wins will play what is probably their final Test away from home. Home comforts will mean little to them if India lose again.

Live on Star Cricket 5.30 am (Tuesday)

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