India has always been poor on doctored pitches

After a dismal show in Pune, the focus is once again back on the doctored pitches, something that has bothered India many a times.

Despite asking for a doctored pitch, Indian batsmen failed to show signs of steel as they crumbled against Australian spinners during the first Test in Pune.   -  Photo: AFP


Half a dozen disposable shaving blades were bought from a shop near Churchgate station in order to make the surface rid of grass at the Wankhede Stadium before the India-New Zealand Test match in November 1988.

It was Dilip Vengsarkar’s 100th Test match and the late Polly Umrigar was in charge of preparation of the pitch. India lost the match by 136 runs with off spinner John Bracewell taking 6 for 51 in the fourth innings.

Reacting to India’s capitulation for 105 in 40.1 overs in the first innings and for 107 in 33.5 overs against Australia in the first Test at Pune, an official who was privy to the eleventh hour messing about the pitch 28 years ago said: “Polly was told not to leave a trace of grass on the pitch and what happened; Richard Hadlee took six wickets in the first innings and Bracewell took six in the fourth. That showed India can not play on bad wickets. ’’

In the same Test, the main wicket takers for India were Narendra Hirwani, Arshad Ayub and Ravi Shastri and the match scores were New Zealand: 236 and 279 and India 234 and 149.

The Wankhede Stadium gradually earned the notoriety for throwing up doctored pitches to suit the home team. India lost the February, 2000 Test match to South Africa and those in the know of things revealed that boot spikes were used to make the pitch rough.

India was shot out for 225 and 113 (fourth innings) and South Africa won the match scoring 176 and 164 for 6 wickets. Anil Kumble and Murali Kartik took nine wickets between them and for South Africa. “Sachin (Tendulkar) told me he will score a century, but was out at 97,’’ said curator Nadeem Memon, who was sarcastically named ‘Man of the Match’ by the Indian team management.

In February 2001 against Australia, every attempt was made to bring the condition of the pitch to extremely ‘dry conditions’ by a senior player of the Indian team. The curator was told not to water the pitch. “First a PR company owner asked my why was I watering the pitch. Then a journalist was asked to keep a watch on what I was doing. And when I told the ground staff to water the pitch in the evening, I got a phone call from Taj Mahal Hotel where the Indian team was staying. Such things happen in Indian cricket. This player even stood on the good length are and swivelled,’’ said this particular curator.

Thereafter in November 2004, Australia’s batsman, Michael Clarke took 6 for 9 in 6.2 overs on a powder-top wicket in the fourth innings. India won the match with Harbhajan Singh, Kumble and Kartik taking 18 wickets between. The pitch began to crumble from the second day because the combination of a brand new fertilizer and murram did not help in binding of the pitch.

Then five years ago in November 2012, England’s Graeme Swann (8 wickets) and Monty Panesar (11 wickets) helped England beat India by 10 wickets on a tinkered pitch and the home team was exposed as a team that cannot play quality spinners.

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