Chennai: A wag said during the tea break on the fifth day of the first Test here: “Mount Road (a landmark in this city) is being re-laid, and K. Parthasarathy (the curator at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium) has been called as a consultant."
The square here is good enough to land a helicopter. No amount of effort from any of the bowlers, spinners and seamers alike, was at any stage good enough to make the Test match even remotely look at a decision. What a waste of a sensational knock played by Virender Sehwag.
Cut to the Punjab Cricket Association pitch at Mohali, in the year 1994. West Indies skipper Courtney Walsh, on the day before the match, came out on the pitch, and dropped a cricket ball on it. The ball bounced back almost to midriff height to the towering Walsh. He immediately turned away and did a jig.
India went on to lose the Test comprehensively.
A few years later New Zealand dismissed India for 82 on the same pitch, and that was the end of that. Now, there is little difference between Mohali and Chennai.
The mantra is simple. No association is ready to risk the home team losing at their centre, so the best thing to do is to play it safe. This square in Chennai, re-laid before last year’s Ranji season, made an absolute mockery of what could well have been a keen match, failing to allow the spinners any purchase or turn, even well into the fifth day.
On the flip side, this is perfect for Twenty20, and with the IPL round the corner, maybe that is what led to this square being packed like granite.
So does that mean we can now forget about Test cricket? Almost all the tracks all over, be it Kolkata, Bangalore, Mohali or Chennai, is being made great for stroke-play, but definitely will be nightmares if bowlers were expected to get 20 wickets on them.
There surely is a middle path, between the quagmire offered to the Australians at Mumbai during their last Test tour here, and this virtual runway dished out to the South Africans.
There is, but it needs some courage. Who wants to risk not getting Tests at all? So why not play safe, and make sure that the home team doesn’t lose at that centre. Or even better, why bother with Test cricket at all?
After all, Twenty20 is here.