By Nadim Memon | Opening Doorz Editorial | March 22, 2017
The just-concluded third Test match, played between India and Australia, the first in Ranchi, played at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association International Cricket Stadium (JSCA International Stadium Complex) was an eye-opener for the Indian selectors: “If you don’t give an underprepared wicket for the home team, then the spin department gets exposed!”
The blame is then on the ball, “it (the ball) was soft.” That was captain Virat Kohli’s excuse for India finishing with a draw, when they had a chance to go 2-1 up in the four-Test series. The ball which they played with in the second Test was good! Right, Virat?
The Ranchi cricket pitch was a black beauty. The black soil pitch was watered well and also rolled adequately before the start of the Test match. It was clearly evident that the local Ranchi curator did not come under the influence of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) ‘pitch doctors’. We saw the mess that was created in Pune and Bengaluru with the rough patches and the wide cracks from day one, which was the direct result of the ‘orders’ given not to roll or water the pitch.
Ranchi was different. For the first time, a Test match was being played in this city and I believe the local administration did not want any of the ‘experiments’ from the previous two Tests to be carried out here. The ‘Black Beauty’ of a pitch had pace, bounce and turn. The ball also carried well.
Being a perfect Test wicket had its negativities for our spin spearhead R Ashwin. The off-spinner bowled 70 overs in this Test and got just two wickets, one of which he got in the 28th over of Australia’s second innings!
In the days gone by, our great spin bowlers like Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prassana, Padmakar Shivalkar, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and R Venkataraghavan, were genuine tweakers of the ball. They would buy wickets by luring the batsman out of the crease with a teasing flight and a precise loop. Today’s spinners just bowl a tight line and length like the fast bowlers. There is no novelty in their approach and hence no purchase at the wicket as was evident in the case of Ashwin.
Ashwin was able to take wickets only on the under-prepared pitches of Pune and Bengaluru. India went in with just two spinners, why they did not include a leg-spinner in the team is still a mystery.
We have forgotten our basic in cricketing technique. We have become selfish in our approach wanting to win at all costs, sacrificing the team balance. We have forgotten our cricketing culture and heritage which was followed until ten years ago, when we could proudly say that cricket was indeed a gentleman’s game.
Today, the gentlemen have gone and cricket is reduced to a mere numbers game. The black pitch, a beauty for any Test match, which had everything for everyone said it all: “Hum kale hai toh kya huwa dilwale hai!”
(Nadim Memon is a man of the maidans. He is a curator, a sports lover, a cricketer, a footballer and more, importantly a fierce protector of maidans for the younger generation!)
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