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Friday, November 27, 2015

Cricket: Spin-India Wins Freedom Trophy Test Series Against South Africa!

India got the best pitch possible to seal the Freedom Test Series against South Africa by winning the third test match in Nagpur in less than three days again thus taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match Series. Spinners of India won the first test in Mohali in less than three days and could have repeated the feat in Bengaluru too had rains not intervened from the second day onwards. Bravo India for pitching in perfectly in the perfect kind of pitches provided with perfection by the perfect supporters of Indian cricket. All cricket action at the moment seems to be so spin-oriented that India opted for just one pacer in the squad for the Nagpur test in the form of Ishant Sharma and yet he hardly bowled. The pitch was referred to as ‘diabolic’ by some while for the Indian fans it should described as ‘historic’. Yes, when India win it is always historic and when they lose it is always ‘unfavourable conditions’.

Look at the scores. India won the toss and electing to bat first struggled to make 215. South Africa replied with 79—the lowest by any team against India in Tests. India struggled to make 173 in the second innings. However, they knew with a lead of 309 runs they would surely win and win overwhelmingly. There was not a single fifty by any, forget about glorious Test centuries. Only spin that accounted for the fall of 20 wickets on the second day. And India's best bowler R Ashwin (happens to be a spinner okay) takes a total of 12 scalps.  The Scorecard:

Like the Mohali pitch the Nagpur pitch too was never known for such kind of ‘turn’around behaviour. These pitches were of course ‘lifeless’ for the short-format games and ‘good batting tracks’ for test matches. A special memory is associated with Nagpur.

Way back in 2004 in the month of October. It was a tour of Australia and the four-match Test Series was being played. Australia were leading the series 1-0 with Nagpur hosting the third match. The series was at stake—if Australia won they would conquer the last frontier since 1969-70 under Steve Waugh and India had to win it to stay alive in the series for a possible win in the last test. The stakes were very high especially for Indian captain Sourav Ganguly who led the team to a spectacular victory over Australia in 2000-01 series in India. And it was a green top waiting for him in Nagpur. Maybe the curator was a bold fellow believing in the spirit of the game who refused to mend the pitch to a spinning one even after being put under tremendous pressure. Some other experts ascribed the factional fights within the BCCI as the main reason for the curator’s defiance.

Whatever be the reasons the ‘conditions’ definitely did not favour India even at home. The lush green cover deflated the Indians while it energised Steve Waugh's invincible Aussies. On the morning of the first day captain Ganguly opted out of the match along with his main spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh citing injury issues. It was widely believed that the skipper opted out due to the green top which for him meant sure defeat. And they did lose that test heavily handing over the series win to Australia.

The biggest problem here is the mindset. Like we pointed out last time the Indian cricket team has been consciously following the ‘spin preference’ instead of a balanced bowling attack and depending heavily on this since time immemorial. Okay, once upon a time the spin trio of India—Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Bedi—was just out of the world which warranted conducive pitches that time at least at home. However, even at that time the pitches took turn from the third or fourth day onwards and on the fifth and last day it was the deadliest. But pray why to follow the same tactics over decades not at all trying to breed, encourage and promote pacers.  Are the team, the team management and the cricket Board just content enough to win at home only treating the away series as aberrations?

Win or no win this is just not cricket. Cricketing experts are defending such pitches as ‘result oriented’. No, this is not result oriented; this is ‘spin oriented allowing the home team to win easily’. You are not supposed to wind up test matches in two or three days. Or is the BCCI considering the possibility of reducing Test matches to just three days instead of five in the interest of the mushrooming and money-spinning cricket ‘revellers’ of the country? Why not? In Indian Cricket it always comes down finally to money matters. India-Pakistan matches have been blockbusters with the big money filling the coffers of both the Boards. Or else why would the BCCI be so desperate to try pressing the Government of India for permission on the very day of the 7th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack  by Pakistan backed terrorists some of whom are still roaming free? This is apart from the ceaseless ceasefire violations and killings of jawans and civilians across the LoC. 
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