Your Opinion: Dual pitches, the way to go?

Despite the MCC’s rejection, Sachin Tendulkar’s idea of playing domestic matches on two pitches deserves a serious thought.

Sachin Tendulkar holds forth at the 'HT Leadership Summit 2016' in New Delhi recently. It's at this meet that the batting legend came up with the suggestion of dual pitches.   -  PTI

Did Sachin Tendulkar nail it when he suggested the idea of dual pitches while speaking at the HT Leadership Summit recently? Clearly, Test teams from outside the sub-continent struggle to win in the sub-continent, and teams from the sub-continent fail to maintain their dominance when they play in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England.

This issue has been discussed ad nauseam in various forums in recent times, and there seems to be no obvious solution to this problem. As a result, there has been a lack of a clear top tier in cricket, and indeed a credible No. 1 in the ICC rankings.

Sachin’s suggestion is that all domestic matches be played on two adjacent pitches — one innings on each pitch. And each innings should be played with a different kind of ball.

“Let us have the first innings on a green top with the Kookaburra ball, which would give the openers a challenge. Even bowlers will have something. Our spinners will also learn how to bowl with Kookaburra on green tops,” he suggests.

“Let there be a pitch adjacent to the green top which would be a rank turner. Now the second innings should be played on that track with the SG Test ball, which would also help our batsmen play against quality spin bowling.”

The Marylebone Cricket Club’s World Cricket Committee discussed this idea at its meeting in Mumbai on December 7 and turned it down because it thought the suggestion went against the competitiveness of first-class cricket. Former England captain Mike Brearley, the chairman of the World Cricket Committee, said, “I personally think the committee would have probably said the same that we felt that (Tendulkar’s idea) went too far in turning first-class cricket into mere practice matches for international cricket.”

Despite the MCC’s rejection, Sachin’s suggestion deserves a serious thought, because it does come from one of the foremost exponents the game has ever known, and he is not in the habit of wasting words.

Clearly, other than the trivialisation of the game that the MCC objects to, there are also a few practical challenges to implementing this idea in its current form.

For one, it would be a trifle naive to imagine that the second pitch won’t be damaged to some extent while the first innings is on. Also, imagine what would happen at the toss. If there is a genuine green top, the team winning the toss will want to bowl first; but it also means that they would bat last on a rank turner, which would be further damaged by the last day. So, winning the toss will not always be advantageous.

The idea, however, can be suitably adapted to make it far more practical. And it is not only the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), but other boards too can decide to structure their domestic championships in the manner they agree upon.

In terms of possible formats, here are a few choices:

Format 1

Each team in the domestic competition plays at least one match on a green top and another on a rank turner. The scheduling can ensure that this is a fair process for everyone.

Format 2

Each team in the domestic competition plays at least one Ranji Trophy game in Australia, England or South Africa. The teams can play the rest of their matches in India. This would ensure that every player in the Ranji Trophy is exposed to foreign pitches and conditions at least once every year.

Format 3

Every year, one Indian domestic team participates in either the County Championship or Sheffield Shield, at least for a part of the season. India similarly should host an Australian and an English team in its domestic calendar.

What this innovation will achieve is that we will have players playing all over the world, who will be far more complete as cricketers. They will be capable of handling the home and away conditions well when they graduate to Test cricket.

Test cricket might just have received a second wind from the man who has already given so much to the game and raised the bar as far as batting is concerned. His latest suggestion has the potential to change the future of the game.

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