It all came to a head in the 2011 season as well when the Daredevils featuring a pace-heavy squad, with the likes of Morne Morkel, Varun Aaron, Ajit Agarkar, Ashoke Dinda, Umesh Yadav and Irfan Pathan, kept on demanding a ‘green’ track throughout the season. The radical step to prepare a track right at one end of the square was taken that year to provide a semblance of assistance to the fast bowlers of the home side.
A similar is drama is unfolding eight years on, under different ownership — JSW — as well as a different management running the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DDCA), the host association. After three matches at the Kotla, the Capitals have now lost two and won one game via ‘Super Over’ at home.
The Kotla is far from being ‘#QilaKotla’ as is being built up on the social media platforms. Spinners have ruled the roost, apart from the game against the Kolkata Knight Riders. The Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad have had the upper hand over the Capitals, restricting the home side to 147 and 129 respectively.
Contrary voices are now emerging for the state of Kotla track much to the chagrin of Capitals.
“The Delhi franchise has been demanding grass as well as pace on the track. This is not possible overnight. The pitch is being prepared according to the best of the available conditions in Delhi. It’s the fag-end of the season and pitches all over the country will slowing down. The number of matches at all levels has also doubled this year — 1100 in 2017-18 to over 2000 in 2018-19. There is natural wear and tear,” a senior DDCA official told CricketNext.
However, Salil Seth, the advisor to DDCA president, felt that a pitch should be judged by batting of both teams and not by the struggles of the Capitals batsmen.
“Two sides batted on the same Kotla surface. We heard no complaints from Chennai or the Hyderabad side. The Capitals also didn’t complain after winning their game against KKR, when both sides scored over 180 runs. We have been giving the track according to the needs of the Capitals, they can’t put the blame for their defeats on the pitch,” Seth told CricketNext.
The Capitals coach Ricky Ponting was furious about the nature of the track after their defeat on Thursday night.
“If the wicket’s going to keep being like that here, we need to think about selections in our team as well, because maybe our bowlers weren’t best suited to the wicket today. But as I said, it wasn’t expected. It wasn’t what the groundsman told us was going to be so we were all surprised as anybody else. Talking to the groundsman before that game, he expected it to be the best pitch out of the three wickets so far. By far and away, it was the worst,” Ponting said after the game.
Seth completely disagreed with Ponting, saying, “We had prepared three tracks for the game against the Sunrisers. The DC officials were shown all three and they only chose this track. On the day of the match, the DC officials claimed the pitch was looking dry but the curator informed them it had been watered according to the instructions received from the franchise.”
Some DDCA officials are also claiming that the Kotla has hosted Ranji Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and U-16 and U-19 games before the IPL, which added to the wear-and-tear of the surface.
“It’s true that Kotla has hosted a lot of matches. But we moved all matches from the venue a month before the IPL. The curators have been given full one month to prepare the pitches for IPL. We have a square of 9 pitches but can only use three of them due to the broadcast and camera issues. There’s no option of shifting to a corner pitch like 2011 to satisfy the whims and fancies of a franchise,” Seth said.
“We have a couple of weeks before Capitals’ next home game. We’ll definitely work on the pitch but there’s not a lot we can do about the inherent nature of the track,” he added.
First Published: April 6, 2019, 3:42 PM IST