Need for good pitches

Preparation of pitches is a professional job, and unless the BCCI works out a good payment system, the process will have non-professionals instructing the ground staff.

Inclusions and exclusions are part of any cricketer's life. However, while inclusions bring happiness, exclusions not only sadden a cricketer but sometimes demoralise him. In India cricket is a passion and, as observed in the past couple of weeks, not a soul who loves the game is bothering to analyse why the Indians are playing like novices. The reason is evident, but so frenziedly keen is the nation to see India do well against the South Africans that we seem to have forgotten that the team embarked on the tour without any preparation.

No cricketing country has shaken South Africa on their home ground in the recent past and the Indians have always struggled to do so. Why the Indian team went to South Africa without preparing for the conditions there is the question that needs to be answered. Agreed, the schedule of the international teams is too tight for a longer camp. But surely, the team could have assembled at Mohali which, according to Barry Richards, offers a pitch that ideally matches the conditions the Indians are facing in South Africa.

It is not that pitches like Mohali and Wankhede (after Sudhir Naik took over as curator at the stadium last year) can't be prepared at the other venues, but there is always lack of either intent or the requisite knowledge for preparation of a good pitch with consistent bounce. The fact that both Daljit Singh and Sudhir Naik continue to prepare pitches that may affect their home teams indicates the support they are getting from their respective associations.

There are more than 40 permanent venues on which domestic cricket is played, and most of these venues don't belong to State associations. This definitely hampers the pitch preparation, but even the pitches of the associations' grounds are awfully maintained and this has been reported to the BCCI by the members of the Pitch and Grounds Committee.

Recently, a Ranji Trophy match was played immediately after an inter-State match on the same ground with a gap of only a day between the two games. How does one expect a good bounce on a pitch that could not have been watered when the inter-State match was being played?

There have been associations that had purposely prepared rank bad turners and the game had finished within two or three days. The ECB penalises county clubs for sub-standard pitches, but there is no provision for any such penalty in our domestic cricket.

The players continue to play domestic cricket on placid or turning pitches. It is only when they play on bouncy pitches that they get exposed. Take the case of Kaif and Raina, both known as hard workers. Their technical deficiency can't be rectified by playing on slow pitches. A class batsman can adapt to conditions but others struggle.

The BCCI has a Pitch and Grounds Committee that oversees the pitch preparation when a home series is played. If a new committee is formed on a zonal basis with either Daljit Singh or Sudhir Naik as head, the knowledge could be shared with other curators.

The composition of the zonal committee should include the curators of the States in that zone. Healthy interaction that will take place in the meetings will help the member curators understand the problems.

In most State associations, the ground staff are poorly paid, while the curators don't get paid at all. This is an important aspect that needs to be considered. `Malis' working for more than two decades get paid around Rs. 5000 a month and they are expected to work 12 hours a day.

Preparation of pitches is a professional job, and unless the BCCI works out a good payment system, the process will have non-professionals instructing the ground staff.

It is definitely not the fault of the Indians for performing so poorly in South Africa. Now that Indian cricket is thoroughly exposed, it is time the BCCI takes preparation of pitches seriously.