Amidst the Indian Premier League extravaganza, there was a disturbing news item that concerned the image of Indian cricket_the warning from the International Cricket Council regarding the Green Park pitch at Kanpur where India overwhelmed South Africa inside three days.
In these very columns I had said that a bad pitch produces bad cricket and the one at Green Park could not have been termed a Test wicket. From what I had read, the captain of the Indian team for that Test, M. S. Dhoni, had gifted some money to the curator for preparing a pitch that suited the home team. What was good for Dhoni was unacceptable for the ICC, and of course for the majority of the cricket fraternity.
I am not surprised by the letter that the ICC dashed off following a complaint by the Match Referee, Roshan Mahanama, that the pitch was bad advertisement for Test cricket. It was. And then the ICC is said to have suggested that sporting pitches be prepared in future. Now I want to know what makes a sporting pitch!
If what I have gathered from my experience is true, then a sporting is one that helps both batsmen and bowlers. It is a pitch that tests the skills of a batsman and a bowler. That is why it is called Test cricket, the highest form of the game. By the same yardstick, I would expect the best batsmen and the best bowlers to adapt themselves to the pitch.
You encounter a pitch that assists the spinners with the ball turning a lot and you also come across a pitch where the ball bounces and hastens off the surface. Such pitches test your technique and of course the character to adapt and fight. As an international cricketer, one has to be prepared to play on all kinds of pitches.
Now the conditions also differ from country to country. The weather can be so hostile in places like New Zealand and England. You not only face bounce and swing but also chilling conditions. I have known instances when our bowlers have struggled to grip the ball properly because of the severe cold. But I have not known them to grumble.
There is something called home conditions and every nation tries to capitalize on them. It is understandable if New Zealand welcomes you with grass on the pitch, like they did ahead of 2003 when India lost both the Tests. The West Indians were known to do it to help their fast bowlers. In India, we prepared pitches that helped the spinners. Home advantage it was.
The ICC should not now try to teach the Indians how to prepare a pitch. India is very good at cricket_either playing or administrating. The ICL and the IPL are examples of it. I can understand the ICC's extreme concerns if the pitch at Kanpur was dangerous for play. It was not. In any case, even the BCCI had taken notice of it after the criticism with a promise that in future care would be taken to avoid such pitches.
I am not changing my view on the pitch at Kanpur but ICC would also do well to remember that if it had objections to the Green Park pitch, then what about the pitch at Motera in Ahmedabad in the preceding Test?
The exit of Sunil Gavaskar from the ICC came under unfortunate circumstances. He could not have remained in the organization of which he was critical in the media. I am happy Gavaskar took the right decision. I prefer reading Gavaskar who can now express his opinion openly.
Finally, the Harbhajan Singh-S. Sreesanth issue needs to be forgotten quickly for the sake of both these players. Harbhajan has suffered and has publicly apologized for his misdeed. I fail to understand how he can be punished twice for one offence. He has already paid the price. What is this system of first IPL punishing him, then the BCCI and then maybe the Punjab Cricket Association? Can you just keep punishing a player for the same offence one by one?
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