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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Freedom Series Cricket: India Pitch In To Win Mohali Test Against South Africa!



As is considered only natural in this country the first Test between India and South Africa at Mohali ended within three days. India beat South Africa by 108 runs today to take 1-0 lead in the four-match Freedom Trophy Test Series. This result must have made Team India, the team management, the cricket Board and all cricket mandarins extremely happy and all must be praising the curator at Mohali no holds barred for creating such a wonder of a cricket pitch. Yes, for India at home the ‘pitch’ along with the add-ons of other ‘conditions’ matter most rather than the competitive quality of the game or the application of the Indian batsmen or the ‘strike’ capability of the Indian bowlers. This has been the case for decades now. In the seventies or even eighties we still remember the commentators saying Sunil Gavaskar coming up to open the bowling  with fielders hitting the ball very hard to the ground at every opportunity. This was to make the ball softer as quickly as possible so that the ‘deadly’ spinners could start at the earliest. Such an approach made the Indian fast bowlers redundant and Indian Cricket is suffering.  

At the start of this auspicious Gandhi-Mandela Series or the Freedom Series India lost the three-match T20 Series 2-0 before they could finish their ‘experimentation’. The specialist short-format Captain MS Dhoni was hauled up out of his domestic bliss to lead the team and he, as usual, played his whims and fancies to the fullest—selecting or dropping players at will without considering the amount of cricket played or current ‘form’, changing the batting order at will and continuing to take his usual suspect on-field decisions. India keeping up with the losing spirit through to the Freedom ODI Series lost the first one day international match as the mindless ‘experimentation’ continued.

Order seemed to have been restored by the time the second ODI that India won thanks to an individual effort by Dhoni. This made him feel himself indispensable as he promoted himself up the batting order in third ODI and lost again. The fourth ODI was the best of the series and was won by India putting the series level at 2-2. But then, India cricketers, conditioned by ‘conditions’, were hardly ready for the superlative cricket displayed by South Africa throughout. The Indian bowlers gave away more than 400 runs in the last ODI in Mumbai and lost the match and the series miserably. The frustration was apparent as Team India director lashed out at the Mumbai curator for creating such a pitch. But what was wrong in that pitch? It has been BCCI’s policy to make lifelessly dry and slow pitches for the short format, particularly the IPL, so that heavy fireworks from batsmen could attract more crowds and so more money. What actually went wrong was that the Indian captain could not win the toss and that Team India was caught in its own trap. Then of course, the short-format specialist went back to domestic bliss making way for the Test captain.

Team India could have been trapped at Mohali too had they failed to win the toss or if top order batsmen Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara failed to put up consistent scores in both innings. That the spinners feasted on the wickets is nothing to write home about. The curator only deserves praise for presenting such an especially ‘under-prepared’ pitch that ushered in collapse after collapse from the two batting sides. Creating such ‘conditions’ at home Team India could win the Test series going up in the rankings, but how would they face the fast-paced pitches abroad.. The ‘redundant’ Indian fast bowlers could get some help abroad, but how the batsmen would muster the art of tackling outside-the-off-stump fast stuff. They no longer have the masters-blasters of yore who could fit in anywhere for the team and many of whom lost out thanks to the obsession of a ‘young’ team As long as cricket continues to be played here for money Indian cricket will continue to suffer and heap more humiliations on the country.

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