Posted On Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 08:58:42 AM
It was minutes before lunch on day four of the first Test and the manner in which Alastair Cook and Ian Bell were batting, it looked certain that India will have to bat again sometime during the final day.
With Gautam Gambhir having gone home for the funeral of his maternal grand-mother, someone suggested that Rahul David who is now a commentator will have to pad up and do the job he has done in the past.
When Dravid, who was passing by, was told about it, he had a laugh before he remarked, “Pujara will have to keep wickets, bowl a bit of off spin and slowly move from fielding at forward short-leg to first slip before being called my spiritual heir.”
Jokes apart, Pujara did come out to bat after England lost their five remaining wickets minutes before lunch on the final day to set India a target of 77 runs. Pujara made 41 to take his match tally to 247 runs as India won the game by nine wickets.
Why is Dhoni angry?
The number of days that it took to finish the game and the number of overs that India had to bowl to achieve the win have not gone down too well with the Indian skipper.
In the second England innings Pragyan Ojha bowled 55 overs for his four wickets, while R Ashwin had to bowl 43 for his solitary wicket. It was hard work for medium fast bowlers too as Umesh Yadav slipped in 23 overs for his three wickets and Zaheer Khan ran in for 27 overs for his two scalps.
Dhoni slammed the track for its slowness and lack of turn. “I don’t even want to see this pitch. There wasn’t enough turn and bounce for the spinners.
Hopefully in the coming matches we’ll see the wicket turn, right from start, or as soon as possible so that the toss doesn’t become vital. It was a good wicket initially but it %remained the same (didn’t disintegrate).”
If this argument seems a bit brazen, then sample this: when asked about the chances of getting into trouble with the ICC if the pitch starts turning from day one, Dhoni said, “I don’t think the match referee can question a pitch just because it’s turning.
“When the wicket seams right from the first delivery nobody asks questions.
What you don’t want is ridges on the pitch where one ball hits your head and next your toe. At times, in the subcontinent, on pitches like this, the toss becomes vital.
“The only way to take the toss out of the equation is to have pitches that turn right from the start. The game may end in 3.5 days, but both teams will have an equal opportunity %to win the game.”
Why Dhoni is right
Dhoni is right and wrong. His toss argument is perfect as the team that bats first on this pitch has the chance to put up a big score on the board, as India did, and then hope that the other team has at least one bad innings, as England did in their first dig.
If the likes of Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen had shown even a semblance of sanity in that innings there is little doubt that this Test would have ended in a draw.
Why Dhoni is worng
But this pitch rant also smacks of desperation. Dhoni actually doesn’t have good-pitch bowlers and bad-wicket batsmen. His argument about seeming tracks is also flawed.
In England and Australia last season the series was not lost because of the tracks but because India played poorly.
They lost 0-4 in Australia but not one pitch really seamed or threw nasty bounce. Even Perth, once the fastest pitch in the world, was relatively benign.
They weren’t flat pitches of course – they had a good carry and bit of help to the seamers - but could not be demonized. Similarly, the pitches in England, where India lost 4-0, can’t be termed as dangerously seaming pitches.
What should be done
This is not to say that the pitches we have seen in India in the last two years have been good. They have been just slow, low pitches without bite or bounce for the spinners.One doesn’t have to go to the dustbowls in the Wadekar/ Azharuddin era but they can at least be like the pitches that one saw during the iconic 2001 series against Australia.
The matches didn’t fold under three days and the ball bounced and spun, and made for a mouth-watering battle. Dhoni though might want a track like the one at Kanpur in 2008 where the game against SA ended in three days.
For the second Test in Mumbai, will he get a dust bowl like the one played against Australia in 2004? But do remember that even there the parttimer Michael Clarke rattled the Indian second innings with figures of 6.2- 0-9-6. And England do have Swann and Panesar. Happy spinning folks.