One thing that Indian cricket followers can be guaranteed before any tour of India by the Australian or English team is a series of articles by their media questioning everything that is happening in India.
They will question the schedule, the venues, the quality of the hotels and the distance from there to the ground and then the pitch preparation, the watering or non-watering of the pitch, the rolling, mowing of the 22 yards on which the match is going to be played.
The Indian media will play it up, ask some former players from both countries about their views and this will keep the pot boiling till the first ball is bowled. That first ball will be watched like a hawk by those who have created a furore about how the strip is going to behave and they quickly find out that as usual they have made a mockery of themselves, once again exposing their ignorance of pitch preparation and which is why they are neither playing the game nor preparing the pitch, but only misleading their readers with incorrect information.
Before the first Test match began in Nagpur, the hullabaloo made about the pitch preparation backfired on the Aussies as they, who should know better about the knowledge or lack of, of their media, seemed to have been influenced by all the reports and looked for devils on the strip where there were none. Not one Australian batter can claim that they were dismissed because of the pitch in both their innings nor for that matter can an Indian batter do that.
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If only teams touring India simply forget about the pitches, keep their minds blank and go out and play, it would actually help them. That said, have you ever heard of an Indian team, in all these years, express doubts about pitches and the preparation when they play overseas? Sure, after the match the players will offer comments on the way the pitch turned out. But never, in all the years that I have been playing and following Indian cricket, have I heard anything about pitches before the first ball has been bowled. There will naturally be a discussion on the pitch within the team’s ranks, but that is strictly within the four walls of the change room. No Indian captain or coach has ever tried to influence the pitch preparation overseas. It is perfectly alright for the team management to express the kind of pitch they would like to play on, just like we hear, when overseas, the home team management suggesting a hard, grassy, bouncy pitch to play the Indians. That’s par for the course and there’s nothing untoward about home teams asking for surfaces that suit their strengths. Today, of course, with the kind of new ball attack that the Indian team possesses, a hard, bouncy pitch sometimes suits the team more than the host.
India’s facile win in the first Test match in Nagpur would have opened up some old wounds for the Aussies and unless there is a remarkable turn around, it does look like India will romp home comfortably in the series. Apart from Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, none of the other Aussie batters seemed to have a clue on how to play spin bowling. Mind you, there was not much turn in the Nagpur pitch, yet the Aussie batters were all at sea, and one shudders to think what will happen if the ball starts to turn and bounce. The Australians haven’t been helped by the injuries to some of their key players like Josh Hazelwood and Cameron Green and if they get fit for the second Test in Delhi, the Aussies will be a much better balanced team than the one that played in Nagpur.
The Australian teams have always been favourites of Indian fans along with the West Indian teams for the brand of cricket they play, and while Indian supporters will enjoy watching their team beat the tourists, what they also want to see is a good contest and not the Aussie capitulation like they saw in the Nagpur Test.