For India’s home season 2016-17 to be exciting, the pitches at the 13 Test venues—Kanpur (Green Park), Kolkata (Eden Gardens), Indore (Holkar Cricket Stadium), Rajkot (SCA Stadium), Visakhapatnam (ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium), Mohali (PCA Stadium), Mumbai (Wankhede Stadium), Chennai (MA Chidambaram Stadium), Hyderabad (Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium), Bangalore (M Chinnaswamy Stadium), Dharamsala (HPCA Stadium), Ranchi (JSCA International Stadium), and Pune (MCA Stadium)—have to be prepared in such a way that we get an even contest between bat and ball.
In no other cricketing nation, does the talk of pitches surface at the start of every Test series or a home season as much as the Indian pitches make us preview them, caustically. Over the last three-four seasons especially, Indian pitches have been shoddily prepared and other than England in 2012, the hosts have not really come up against a side with a quality spin attack and subsequently not been adversely affected.
In simple terms, Indian pitches’ shoddy nature has not boomeranged for the home side since England’s 1-2 Test series victory on Indian soil in 2012.
But, ahead of India’s home season 2016-17, spanning six months, we can say that at least New Zealand and England have spinners capable of causing problems for the Indian batsmen if the pitches are not ‘prepared properly’. So, how should the Indian pitches be prepared?
Continue reading… because we are going to be looking at ideal Test pitches for Indian conditions.
Test Pitches for India’s Home Season 2016-17
‘Good weather and optimal watering and rolling’ are the cornerstones of a proper cricket pitch, which should allow batsmen and bowlers to thrive and in turn, treat the spectators to a good contest. Yes, the soil used has a major bearing on how a cricket pitch plays—whether it facilitates pace and bounce or if it is conducive to spinners and slow bowlers, in general—but if the curator does not get enough time to prepare a pitch, mostly due to prevalent weather conditions, or does not water the pitch enough, then pitches are bound to misbehave.
Clay pitches need plenty of watering and even then have the tendency to slow down quickly, but the red soil furnishes good pace and bounce and red soil pitches tend to remain good for longer periods too, with the Wankhede pitch—arguably the fastest in the country—providing solid proof of how red soil pitches can behave.
Coming back to India’s home season 2016-17, the pitches at the aforementioned 13 venues need not have a green tinge on them, no, but the curators have to ensure that the pitches are adequately watered. Water too much and the bowlers will rule the roost, water less and you will witness the ball turning square on day one of a Test match, which is exactly what the curators and groundsmen have to guard against.
I surmise that the curators, over the last three-four seasons, have not found the right amount of watering needed for Indian pitches, depending on the overhead conditions during different months of the year. The reason I can think of is a possible apprehension on the curators’ part about excessively watering the pitches and handing over an advantage to touring teams with great pace attacks such as England’s (2012), Australia’s (2013) and most recently, South Africa’s (2015).
Either that or they were instructed to not water at all, thereby contriving the Indian pitches to provide massive assistance for spinners and from the batsmen’s vantage point, misbehave, with the top-most surface becoming powdery and breaking up very early on in the Test match.
Because India’s home season 2016-17 begins in September, even before the Ranji Trophy season does (on October 6th), I think we will at least be getting well-prepared pitches for the eight Tests against New Zealand (three) and England (five), though the pitches may well slow down by the time Bangladesh (one) and Australia (four) arrive in India in February 2017.
In recent years, Test series in India have tended to begin in the months of November and December or in February and March and the groundsmen might well have been impeded by the weather, which in November and December months can be wet and in February and March be extremely hot. As a result, a curator will either not have had enough time to prepare a pitch because it had to be under the covers for long periods or have been unable to retain the enviable moisture level because of extremely high temperatures.
A good Indian Test pitch is one which the batsmen can play their shots on, on days one and two at least, before the spinners naturally come to the fore on days three, four and five. If you want Test matches played in India to be well contested, then the only way forward is this. Surely, Indian pitches and weather are not going to assist swing and seam bowling and neither are the Indian pitches going to be fast and bouncy, so the main battle is between batsmen and spinners. I am saying, prepare a pitch that the spinners have to work hard to pick wickets on and if so, the curators have to adequately water the pitches, roll them well and consequently make them good to bat on at the start of a Test match.
Do you agree? Tell us your opinion in the comments below.