Sunil Gavaskar: Blame the batting ability, or the lack of it, not the Ahmedabad pitch

If people want the ball to come straight at an even bounce — delivery after delivery — they should go watch indoor cricket on artificial turf, says Sunil Gavaskar on the criticism coming Motera's way.

In any case how can a team that has won the toss and been just two wickets down at 74 runs, complain about the pitch, asks Sunil Gavaskar.   -  Sportzpics/BCCI

The first match at the magnificent Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad finished in less than two days. Since it was a game that was to be partly played under the lights and with a pink ball there was speculation that the match won’t last the full five days, much like most Test matches nowadays. Nobody, though, could have predicted that the game would get over in under two days.

Of course, in such a situation there would be a lot of talk about the pitch. While there was the expected criticism from the one-eyed supporters of English cricket, the England captain Joe Root and his players have not said a word, leaving it to the ICC to take a call on the quality of the pitch. Full marks to Root for doing that as otherwise he would have been perceived as another whingeing Brit. In any case how can a team that has won the toss and been just two wickets down at 74 runs, complain about the pitch?

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Those two wickets had nothing to do with the pitch. Dom Sibley, the opening batsman, was out to a terrific outswinger from Ishant Sharma to give the tall pacer a wicket in his 100th Test match and Jonny Bairstow played for turn and was trapped leg-before wicket to local boy Axar Patel. So, clearly the pitch had nothing to do with the batsmen losing their wickets. Then Joe Root played back to a full length ball and was trapped leg before and Ben Stokes played down the wrong line and was bowled. Pope had no idea of the floater from Ashwin that went straight through to knock his off-stump back and he was bowled in a similar fashion in the second innings too, this time with Ashwin bowling over the wicket. So the top six were out to deception and not the pitch. The same story pretty much happened with them in the second innings where they were deceived into playing down the wrong line and getting bowled or leg before wicket. Not one wicket fell where the ball exploded off the surface or scooted along the ground and yet the pitch is being blamed. If people want the ball to come straight at an even bounce — delivery after delivery — they should go watch indoor cricket on artificial turf.

England’s rotation policy didn’t help. After winning the first Test match they went into the second match with both their pace bowling spearheads missing. Jofra Archer had an injury and so he was not considered. But it’s here that England should not have been rigid with their rotation policy and picked Anderson who had bowled beautifully in the second innings of the first Test. There was a week’s gap between the second and third Test and that should have been enough rest time for Anderson or anybody who wants to represent his country. The Indians seeing Anderson and Archer missing would have heaved a sigh of relief. Then Moeen Ali who bowled and even batted well in the second Test was sent home because of the workload management rotation policy. Mind you he had played just that Test match so the workload should never have been a consideration anyway. But again the rigidity and inflexibility of the rotation policy meant that he had to go home. Speaking of workload management... how about the workload of skipper Joe Root who has reeled off two double hundreds and a near double and has also bowled in the five Test matches so far? Not to forget the pressures and tensions of captaincy on an overseas assignment. Why isn’t he being sent home to rest when clearly he has had the heaviest of workloads?

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Members of the Indian team celebrate the fall of a wicket during the Test. The English batsmen were caught in a spin web and were bundled out cheaply in both innings.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

 

Isn’t it regularly drilled into us that today’s cricketers are stronger and fitter than those of the past? Then why do these stronger and fitter cricketers need the break so often? The past cricketers may not have been as athletic and strong as the current ones but they had stronger minds which allowed them to make up for any physical deficiencies and carry on playing in rain and shine simply for the joy, pride, honour and privilege to represent their countries.

By the way, in the last 10 years England were dismissed for sub-100 totals six times (twice at home), Pakistan and South Africa four times and Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka thrice each and Bangladesh, India and Zimbabwe twice each with West Indies and Ireland once each.

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In the last five years England have been dismissed five times under 100 (twice at home) and to narrow it further, in the last three years England have been knocked over five times under 100 and six other sides once each.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s the batting ability or the lack of it and not the pitches that need to be blamed.