Virtually backing the Indian position, former Australian captain Ian Chappell does not see anything wrong in the spin-friendly Nagpur pitch which saw India thrash South Africa inside three days in a recent Test, saying matches played elsewhere on seaming tracks have ended “in the blink of an eye”.
On a wicket which spun from day one, India thrashed South Africa by 124 runs inside three days in the third Test at the VCA stadium at Nagpur last month, prompting the ICC to seek a report from BCCI regarding the “poor” condition of the track.
Chappell virtually supported all those arguments put forward by the likes of Indian Team Director Shastri and captain Virat Kohli, who have pointed out that some Test matches on seaming pitches in Australia and South Africa have ended inside three days and hence there was nothing wrong with the Nagpur wicket.
“With controversy surrounding the surfaces prepared for Test matches in Nagpur and Adelaide, it’s time to ask the question: is it the pitches or the performers who are responsible for Test matches being over in the blink of an eye?” Chappell wrote in a column which appeared in ‘Cricinfo’.
“Ravi Shastri, the Indian team director, quite rightly made the point that if the ICC was investigating the surface in Nagpur, then why wasn’t a similar forensic examination being conducted on the Adelaide pitch, where the match was completed in a similarly short time frame?” said Chappell.
In the first ever day-night Test match in Adelaide last month, Australia had beaten New Zealand inside three days.
Chappell wondered why a track offering spin on the first day can be worse than a wicket which assists seam and pace on the opening day.
“A good batsman prides himself on his ability to prosper under any conditions, enjoying whatever challenge is presented. Why should a pitch that spins on the opening day be deemed worse than one that seams first up?” asked the 72-year-old Chappell who played for Australia in 75 Tests between 1964 and 1980.
“That brings us to the question: What is a good pitch? A good pitch is one that provides a contest between bat and ball and hopefully a close finish. That means a good pitch can vary from region to region. In some places the surface will suit faster bowlers and in others, it will favour spinners,” added Chappell.
Chappell advised international teams to start looking at the technique of their own players and stop blaming curators.
“Both teams have to play on a Test pitch and it’s not the curator’s fault if one side is either technically unable to cope or is beaten before a ball is delivered,” he said.
“There’s certainly a need for an investigation but it should be looking at how cricket is evolving and what is the best way for the game to progress. It’s time to start looking at the players and stop blaming the curators.”
He felt the South African team, which lost to India 0-3 in the recent four-match Test series, lacked the technique to cope with the conditions.
“I watched some of South Africa’s batting in Delhi, on a pitch that was even for both sides, and I’m not surprised they were exterminated in Nagpur. If South Africa continue to utilise flawed techniques and mindsets, it won’t matter where they are playing, they will encounter difficulty.
“In many cases the technique and mindset were designed purely for survival. If you allow spinners to dictate terms for long periods, with fielders hovering round the bat, on pitches providing assistance, then survival will be brief,” said Chappell.
“The better the spinner, the more aggressive the batsman’s thought process should be, as this promotes decisive footwork rather than a feeling that your sprigs are stuck in freshly laid tar. An aggressive thought process doesn’t necessarily mean seeking regular boundaries; a succession of singles can disrupt the line and length of the best spinner. With a string of singles he’s got to constantly change plans, and unless he’s patient, that will drive him to distraction,” he said.
The former captain said that there would not be this issue of advantage of home-town-pitches if the teams were well-balanced.
“If Test teams are well balanced and capable of performing adequately under any conditions then there would be no advantage gained by preparing ‘home-town pitches’. In fact a trend towards Test pitches that provide encouragement to bowlers might actually convince batsmen of the need to seek a well-rounded technique, one that’s equally adept at combining aggressive and survival techniques.”
Talking about the Adelaide pitch, he said, “In Adelaide, the debate raged over the amount of grass left on the pitch. Bearing in mind the surface had to cope with Test cricket under lights for the first time and the use of a different-coloured ball, I thought the pitch was fair. It certainly provided a keen contest.
“I was accustomed to seeing Australian pitches covered with an even mat of grass, and if this again becomes a trend it will be good for the game. I found the Adelaide Test enthralling but what preceded it on a dull Perth pitch and followed at Bellerive with a lifeless and utterly inept West Indies team, less than inspiring.”
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