Pace and bounce

Spotted this on Cricinfo’s scoreboard at the tea interval in the Bombay-Karnataka Ranji game:

Darshan: “Update From Mysore – My colleague just got back to office from the Gangotri glades & said the ground is jam packed with lots of Buzz, Hats off to the curator for making such a CRICKET FRIENDLY PITCH!”

Tells you all that talk about the soil in our country not being conducive to creating lively pitches is pure bunkum; tells you too that we have in India the expertise to make good pitches that offer testing conditions. This game might be worth keeping in mind, the next time we get apologists explaining why a track prepared for an international contest is so duh!

Watching the play, as much as I could between work, put me in mind of one other aspect. Structurally, the premier domestic competition should be just one rung below international standards — that is how you get to identify and hone talent that can make the progression to the next level

So we are watching the two top sides in the country this year, playing in conditions that ask questions of the batsmen — and the takeaway is, the batsmen are not equipped to answer those questions. No batsman on either side has managed to counter swing, negotiate seam, or look remotely comfortable against bounce.

And yet we wonder why, when we face tough conditions abroad, we struggle — because batsmen mollycoddled on designer batting wickets have neither the opportunity, nor the need, to develop those larger skills.

The board routinely pays lip service to the need to prepare good tracks for the domestic competition; as routinely, it ignores its own diktat and allows its pitches committee [now defunct] to create tracks guaranteed to burn bowlers out before their time, and to give batsmen a false sense of their own abilities.

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21 thoughts on “Pace and bounce

  1. This is a good wicket to test our batsmen. But, is it fair to say that all bowlers who took wickets are good? If they pitch the ball up, the responsive pitch will do the rest, right?

    • Firstly, Madhu, as our international bowlers continue to show us, it is not easy to consistently hit good lines and lengths as it appears to be. Check out Agarkar, for instance, with all his experience he was not the best bowler on view. Nor is it axiomatic that just because the ball is on length, the pitch will do the rest — without the seam being just so, you won’t get the kind of movement you want off the deck. I’m not suggesting the bowlers on view need immediately to be stepped up to the international ranks, but there is definite potential in some of those boys.

  2. 25 wickets in 2 days. I am willing to wager my entire house that the ICC Match Referee would have declared this wicket unfit because of excessive seam and swing movement and issued the BCCI a show cause notice.

    Cheers,

    • Which pitch in India or elsewhere was declared unfit by a referee due to “excessive seam and swing movement”

      • Kanpur was issued a show cause notice because of “excessive” spin. And this in a test match where one team scored 260 odd and the other 320 odd in their first innings.

        Given that background, pretty sure this wicket would not pass muster, never mind the fact that it makes for exciting viewing.

        PS:- The wickets for the 2006 Champions Trophy were similar.. And that did not please the ICC or sundry commentators one bit!

        • I’d agree with you guys that this kind of track will give the ICC — and some commentators who really should know better — the jitters. But ask that lot how this differs from say the Wanderers, or Perth, and they would be hard pressed to give you an answer.

          It’s a fairly ridiculous instance of typecasting, really: Perth is universally acknowledged to be fast, it has become part of the ground’s *character*, so pace and bounce there does not raise eyebrows. But the stereotype is for Indian pitches to play flat, to get lower and slower as the game goes on, and to assist spin to an extent. Any deviation from the norm, and rather than assessing the track on its own, for what it brings to the game, the good folks you are referencing scream even louder than the batsmen. Pity, but there it is — incidentally, aren’t you glad our Neo commentators are not doing duty for the Ranji finals? 🙂

          • Agree that more sporting tracks have to be made,we are unable to judge the current crop as most of them have been playing in the subcontinent.
            Wondering why the cricket administrators have in their head that the sport will improve only if they make batsmen friendly changes-if you look at the way changes have been made in the last decade .
            a)A batsmen unfriendly pitch is called dangerous a la kotla (the batsmen were wearing protective gear anyways),why was the Motera pitch not called unfit and play stopped?because the bowlers were at the recieving end(The administrators cannot imagine the bowlers getting injured due to wear and tear on such pitches)
            b)Free Hit-pray why is the bowler penalised twice for the same crime -he gets to bowl again and also can be tonked anywhere in the park,if you combine that with wides,the bowlers don’t have leeway along with restriction on the bouncers.The batsmen can do anything stand outside the crease or even wide of the stumps.
            c)A Bowler bending his arm maybe called for chucking while a batsman can do anything he can switch hit,reverse hit or do a dilshan scoop,the batsmen can innovate while a bowler has no freedom.
            d)The UDRS is funny -if on review the ball is found hitting the top of the stumps by hawk eye it would be not out-and I thought all the part of the stumps is out as even the top is part of the stumps or they will have to make wickets without a top which is nigh impossible.
            e)UDRS has been brought in to ensure that umpire errors are kept to a minimum-then there should be no limitations to the number of reviews even at the costs of indiscriminate reviews but like they say a wrong out or not out is far dangerous than the many reviews,we have a case in point of the India Aus Sydney test.Or they could have a review system with fixed number of reviews but the third umpire can step in when he sees a clear wrong decision.
            f)Maybe the new ball change in tests should be allowed after 60 overs,the decision to change the ball or not will as usual rest with the fielding captain.

            I would say also no reason for domestic cricket to be one notch below the international level,if the level of sport is good it will be fun and interesting-I have seen local cricket in Australia and its of a high standard.
            If standards are high locally it can survive without international cricket-S Africa were a good side even without playing at the international level for so long as their local cricket was good.If for some reason international teams don’t visit due to crisis or some reason our domestic cricket can still survive and if we have the top 30-40 players competing cricket would be good.

        • My point was that ICC has never declared a pitch unfit to play for excessive swing and swing movement in India or elsewhere. The NZ pitches for the 2002-03 series against India were the worst in recent memory on this count but ICC did not send show-cause notices to the NZ board. Examples from India include Nagpur 2004 pitch (against Australia) and Calcutta ODI pitch against South Africa in 2006 when again no show-cause notices were sent out. If this reaction is because of the Kotla pitch against SL, the problem there was not seam or swing movement but extreme variations in bounce of just short-of-good length deliveries.

          Kanpur type of wickets are a different animal, at least for the ICC that is, and India has a history of “preparing” such wickets when we desperately need a win – Madras 1987 (Hirwani debut match, 16 wickets, series drawn 1-1 against WI), Mumbai 2004(vs Aus) and the match you just mentioned Kanpur 2008. I am all for letting the curator have complete autonomy in the preparation of the pitch but I know that will never happen.

          • Don’t get me wrong, I am not with the ICC entirely on the issue of pitch quality. IMO, they should sanction boards that produce feather-bed pitches as well. The sad part is, the ICC in a press release last year has said as much – that it will consider flat pitches on par with under-prepared pitches – but they don’t seem to be acting on it.

            • tea_cup,

              Since my previous comment is “awaiting moderation”, let me try again.

              Ahmedabad 2005

              India 398 and 316/9 decl
              Sri Lanka 206 and 249

              Word leaked by insiders at Ahmedabad says there was more concern about the surface at Motera than that at the Kotla, but the report is already being sent to the ICC headquarters in Dubai. Sri Lankan team officials, approached before their departure, declined to comment.

              The report would be without any known precedent, though rival captains around the world have often raised their voices against pitches they have not liked.

              It is also instructive to read the reports on Cricinfo on the Kanpur 2008 wicket – before, during and after the Test.

              It is also instructive to note that in the lead up to the Kanpur Test, there had been some confusion on whether the Green Park would be made available for the Test and the curator had gone on record to say that because of the extreme heat in UP at the time( temperatures in excess of 45 degrees), watering the wicket had made no impact on the conditions whatesoever. And the ICC was in the loop about all of this.

              Both Calcutta 2006 and Nagpur 2004 were not a patch on Mysore.. Having watched both games, I can say that with a great degree of certainty.Calcutta was a case of the India batting’s ineptness, vide the ease with which South Africa steamrolled us. Ditto Nagpur. And Gauwhati 2009.

              Given that 25 wickets fell in two days for less than 500 runs, match referees would be queuing up to declare Mysore “unfit”. And the ICC to replenish its dwindling funds, courtesy the penalties imposed on the BCCI.

              And for what its worth, the Headingley Test of 2009 lasted a session less than Kanpur 2008. 810 runs were scored then for 30 wickets while 775 runs were scored at Kanpur for the loss of 31 wickets. One was deemed unfit and the other, a “testament” to good test match cricket.

              Cheers,

              • Funny thing happened.. Was checking some old scores and here is one that I found

                India 249 & 236

                South Africa 84 and 278

                40 wickets for a grand total of 847 runs. 257 overs. Roughly 8.5 sessions or a tad under 3 days of play. Match Referee – Roshan Mahanama

                Kanpur -31 wickets for a grand total of 775 runs 266 overs. Roughly 8.5 sessions or a tad under 3 days of play. Match Referee – Roshan Mahanama.

                Give that this is how the ICC operates, I feel extremely secure in believing that Mysore would get a minimum 2 year ban if the Ranji finals was played under the aegis of the ICC. 🙂

                Cheers,

                • Let me try again, my point is, ICC will never declare a pitch unfit for excessive seam movement no matter where it happens. They did not send a show cause notice to NZ on the pitches they produced for the 2002-03 series against India and to use your own words, Mysore is not a patch on those NZ pitches. Right or wrong, the ICC is consistent in it’s definition of an under-prepared pitch and those are pitches that start to deteriorate into dust-bowls with uneven bounce and turn in less than 3 days. Pitches with a generous amount of grass on them are okay as long as the bounce is even and the deflection of the seam is less than 90 degrees else it might injure the short-leg fielder 🙂

    • He did better than okay, especially in the second innings. Batting was incredibly hard — responsive pitch, bowlers who had worked out their lines and lengths and were feeling the buzz, panic in the batting camp — far from ideal conditions, but he seemed to organize his game very well, along nice tight lines, and also seemed to have the nous to figure out that you couldn’t go hard at the ball, and the temperament to be patient and wait for his opportunities. Nice.

  3. Totally agree, Prem. In a contest between the bat and the ball, the mindset these days somehow seems to be the BAT must win !!.

    And I was surprized at Ayaz’s (cricketwallah) tweet about this pitch being “gross”.

  4. “So we are watching the two top sides in the country this year, playing in conditions that ask questions of the batsmen — and the takeaway is, the batsmen are not equipped to answer those questions. No batsman on either side has managed to counter swing, negotiate seam, or look remotely comfortable against bounce.

    And yet we wonder why, when we face tough conditions abroad, we struggle — because batsmen mollycoddled on designer batting wickets have neither the opportunity, nor the need, to develop those larger skills.”

    That was exactly my thoughts as well on the on-going Ranji final. Now, since you had just written on the possible candidates for the future no.3 for India in ODI, who do you think is best suited to come in at the fall of an early wicket against a top quality pace attack on a wicket that has some early assistance to the bowlers. I know the World Cup is played in India and the wickets for that tournament are going to be as flat as it can get, but is winning the World-Cup the only goal? Shouldn’t we aim to become the best team in all formats and on any kind of wicket we play on? I know Virat Kohli has not had enough opportunities to prove himself in tougher conditions against good bowling attacks but it is noteworthy that he failed in the limited opportunities he has had – 16 against Pakistan in Centurion and an aggregate of 40 runs in 2 matches against Australia on flat wickets in India. If I were a selector, I would be happy that we do have players like SRT, Gambhir and Dhoni in our ODI team for all conditions.

    • The problem is there doesn’t seem to be any point assessing the potential candidates to replace the likes of Rahul and Sachin — none of the likely contenders have been able to showcase their ability on a track such as this one, nor have they consistently gotten to play tough opposition.

      I’ve liked the little I have seen of Pujara, for instance, as a potential Test batsman — but then, who knows what he would have done here?

      We seem oblivious of the fact that we are on the cusp of generational change — RD, SRT and VVS are approaching their respective use-by dates. That could come a year or two down the line — but when it does, it will hit us bloody hard simply because we have ignored the need to work towards that point.

      • One of the fundamental mistakes of our selection process is to select players from IPL to play in International T20 and then elevate them to ODIs. The correct process would be to select top players from Ranji matches to play in ODIs directly and then try them out in international T20 games or Test Matches when an opportunity arises.

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