Pitch preparation draws more flak

Curators are forced to prepare tracks against their will, says a senior pro.

A file picture of major pitch re-laying work undertaken at the M. A. Chidambaram Cricket Stadium, Chepauk in Chennai.   -  K. Pichumani

After the ‘fiasco’ in Pune, the process of preparing pitches for home Tests came under more fire when a senior BCCI curator backed Pandurang Salgoankar’s claims in a chat with Sportstar here on Monday.

The curator said, “The orders come from the team-management and are then passed on to the BCCI. The curators just follow the instructions. Their hands are tied and they are forced to prepare pitches that they don’t actually want to make. It’s sad.”

Natural constraints

He said, “It is impossible to prepare rank turners all the time. For instance, it is hard to make turners in Northern India during winter or when it rains. There will be a lot of dew on the pitch and it is very difficult to make it a dry turner. And in places such as Kolkata, the nature of the soil does not suit raging turners. Still, we get clear instructions.”

The curator added, “In fact, former India captain M. S. Dhoni publicly said the Indian team wanted pitches where the spinners receive considerable help.”

How, then, is a mine-field of a pitch prepared? The top curator said, “The pitch for the Test is earmarked well in advance, by a month. No other matches are played on it. Then we don’t roll the pitch or water it for a week, at least, or do so in very little way. The pitch becomes dry.”

He revealed, “On occasions, we don’t water the surface at all and then water it a little, by not more than a can, on the eve of the Test. Then the top layer actually becomes loose and the ball starts ‘gripping’ for spinners, making them even more dangerous.”

Essential components

So, poor water programming and less or no rolling are the essential components of an excessively spinner friendly pitch. In these surfaces, the spinners also get to exploit the rough and the cracks that open up as the match progresses.

A powdery surface, fissures on the track, and pronounced patches provide the sort of encouragement to spinners that does not quite reflect their true ability.

In the home series against South Africa too this season, the Indian played on ‘spinning tops’. And the host was successful. In Pune, the ploy boomeranged.

The curator noted, “We all want to prepare good tracks with even bounce that deteriorate gradually and last five days, wickets on which both the batsmen and the bowlers have an equal chance to succeed.”

Former India batting great Mohinder Amarnath told Sportstar, “The pitch at Pune was not a good one for cricket. We should play on Test match wickets.”

That does not seem to be happening.