India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 2010-11 October 4, 2010

'Poor' Mohali pitch hurts Test cricket

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I remember playing a Duleep Trophy match against West Zone at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. It was a classic Mohali track with pace, bounce and enough lateral movement to keep the batsmen guessing and, for once, making the bowlers believe that being a bowler wasn't that bad a thing. Faster men ruled the match but good batting was also rewarded, for bounce always helps to play shots.

Then there was the second Test match of my debut series against New Zealand at the same venue. While the track wasn't as lively as it was for the Duleep Trophy, it had enough to keep the bowlers interested. What made the show even more exciting were the spectators who'd come out in huge numbers on all five days of the Test match despite India trailing. A lot has changed since then - the pitch is a far cry from its original spirit, turning potentially competitive games into wishy-washy affairs. The spectators too seem to have got a whiff of the bland show, and hence don't care much about turning up and supporting their country.

The ongoing Test Match in Mohali seems to have been hit by both problems : a tame pitch and a low-key audience. The track is not even a pale shadow of what it used to be. The much talked-about pace and bounce is a thing of the past. Now we witness a low, slow wicket that is not ideal for a fair competition between the bat and the ball. If it wasn't for the SG Test ball, which helps the spinners with its pronounced seam and assists the pacers with reverse swing, bowlers may start mulling over their availability for the venue.

The claims holding incessant rains responsible for the insipid pitch at Mohali may fall flat too. When India played England in 2008, it was a high scoring match that ended in a draw.

Ironically, though, when the Ranji Trophy starts in three weeks, the pitch report might behave quite differently. There will be an even grass covering on the track and fast bowlers will share the spoils once again. Spinners play an insignificant role for Punjab in the first-class cricket. I'm not suggesting a green top against Australia, for that would be playing into their hands - like India did in 2004 at Nagpur - but a track with at least some carry and bounce won't hurt the game. It's rather unnerving to see the ball bounce twice to the wicket-keeper on the first day of a Test match.

Unfortunately, this comes at a time when sweeping attempts are being made to resurrect the format and challenge the spectator's growing disenchantment. Earlier, any international match would bring the star-crazy people into the stadium but now their hunger is sated through the IPL. No longer do they need to survive the proceedings of a dull Test match in order to get a glimpse of their favourite stars. Since the IPL has given them a taste of all that they can get from a match, the hosts need to stop taking their spectators for granted.

In order to save the longer format it's absolutely mandatory to encourage parents to bring their kids to watch the purest form of cricket. That might mean opening the gates at a much cheaper price or perhaps allowing kids for free when accompanied by their parents. Also give them incentives like organising tennis-ball cricket matches on the ground after the day's play, running contests during the day and a good PA system in place educating the crowd about the nuances of the game. These measures would enhance the viewing pleasure of the paying public and ensure that our cricketers aren't playing to empty stands.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SeeYem on October 5, 2010, 11:21 GMT

    The pitch had the perfect set of ingredients to make it a great test match. There was something for Fast bowlers, spinners and batsmen. Even on Day5, there was decent carry to the keeper. We always dont need bouncy tracks for a good contest. And more importantly, the home team should play to their advantage.

  • Sathish T on October 5, 2010, 10:37 GMT

    As it turns out, this test ended up being one of the best ever finishes!!!

    I think the teams that play are more important than the surface. India and Australia have played each other on all kinds of surfaces but still the matches are always interesting. I think the defensive teams like SL, SA etc accept a draw upon seeing a flat low track and then play for tall scoring games.

  • Jijo on October 5, 2010, 8:56 GMT

    Dont agree with this article. We just witnessed a perfect test match with a thrilling finish, instead of a dull draw.

  • Ankit Motani on October 5, 2010, 6:29 GMT

    The close result the match is headed towards not withstanding, Akash Chopra is right about the pitch not being what it used to be. Irrespective of how much we try to gain home advantage through pitch being made for our benefit (and I am not against it), the very low bounce hasnt helped us at all.

    Whats worse is the response of the crowd at Mohali and in that I`d like to know how much of a factor was a fact that tickets were priced too heavily. Lets also not forget that its been extremely hot and the stadium does not offer a lot of protection against the beating sun to the large masses.

  • Sinha on October 5, 2010, 5:57 GMT

    In fact, i think this wicket is quite a good one. has held up exactly as you would expect Indian pitches to, both teams had a decent first innings, and had to fight for their second innings, produced a result in the 5th day. All in all, this pitch has produced a very exciting test match

  • BSG on October 5, 2010, 4:38 GMT

    Mate, I don't agree. Johnson have taken 5 wickets plus Bollinger performed well in first innings. What else do you expect?

  • Pratyush on October 5, 2010, 2:42 GMT

    Agree with Mohali's assesment . But dont we know this all along. The pitch would be dull & expecting a large turnout would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack ! Its the brilliance of the bowlers that has made a result imminent here in this test.

    I

  • Topa Singh on October 5, 2010, 1:53 GMT

    I agree. This pitch is not poor. It has set-up a great game.

  • Bhavesh on October 5, 2010, 0:58 GMT

    Disagree with the pitch assessment by Akash. Gotta wait for the match to get over before giving such assessments. Look at the match status at stumps on day 4. Result is a guarantee now. The bowlers and the batsmen got their fair share. As such, the term "Poor" is used far too loosely nowadays, especially when we have 1 or 2 days of batting paradise. But then, it should be remembered that there are 5 days in a test match. Talk about low/no bounce - well, gotta look at the place where the match is being played. As such, you can't fight with mother nature. You play in Aus/SA - expect bounce, play in England/NZ - expect Swing; play in the sub-continent - expect dust bowl! And yes, Drawn games are boring...but we should accept a hard fought DRAW as a good result.

  • Rishabh on October 4, 2010, 23:28 GMT

    Do not agree with you Aakash. Pitch has given a wonderful match with everybody getting the rewards for hard work be it batters,pacers or spinners. One never expects a pacy , bouncy pitch in India but this one is much better then all the feather-beds laid out in last 2 years.

  • SeeYem on October 5, 2010, 11:21 GMT

    The pitch had the perfect set of ingredients to make it a great test match. There was something for Fast bowlers, spinners and batsmen. Even on Day5, there was decent carry to the keeper. We always dont need bouncy tracks for a good contest. And more importantly, the home team should play to their advantage.

  • Sathish T on October 5, 2010, 10:37 GMT

    As it turns out, this test ended up being one of the best ever finishes!!!

    I think the teams that play are more important than the surface. India and Australia have played each other on all kinds of surfaces but still the matches are always interesting. I think the defensive teams like SL, SA etc accept a draw upon seeing a flat low track and then play for tall scoring games.

  • Jijo on October 5, 2010, 8:56 GMT

    Dont agree with this article. We just witnessed a perfect test match with a thrilling finish, instead of a dull draw.

  • Ankit Motani on October 5, 2010, 6:29 GMT

    The close result the match is headed towards not withstanding, Akash Chopra is right about the pitch not being what it used to be. Irrespective of how much we try to gain home advantage through pitch being made for our benefit (and I am not against it), the very low bounce hasnt helped us at all.

    Whats worse is the response of the crowd at Mohali and in that I`d like to know how much of a factor was a fact that tickets were priced too heavily. Lets also not forget that its been extremely hot and the stadium does not offer a lot of protection against the beating sun to the large masses.

  • Sinha on October 5, 2010, 5:57 GMT

    In fact, i think this wicket is quite a good one. has held up exactly as you would expect Indian pitches to, both teams had a decent first innings, and had to fight for their second innings, produced a result in the 5th day. All in all, this pitch has produced a very exciting test match

  • BSG on October 5, 2010, 4:38 GMT

    Mate, I don't agree. Johnson have taken 5 wickets plus Bollinger performed well in first innings. What else do you expect?

  • Pratyush on October 5, 2010, 2:42 GMT

    Agree with Mohali's assesment . But dont we know this all along. The pitch would be dull & expecting a large turnout would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack ! Its the brilliance of the bowlers that has made a result imminent here in this test.

    I

  • Topa Singh on October 5, 2010, 1:53 GMT

    I agree. This pitch is not poor. It has set-up a great game.

  • Bhavesh on October 5, 2010, 0:58 GMT

    Disagree with the pitch assessment by Akash. Gotta wait for the match to get over before giving such assessments. Look at the match status at stumps on day 4. Result is a guarantee now. The bowlers and the batsmen got their fair share. As such, the term "Poor" is used far too loosely nowadays, especially when we have 1 or 2 days of batting paradise. But then, it should be remembered that there are 5 days in a test match. Talk about low/no bounce - well, gotta look at the place where the match is being played. As such, you can't fight with mother nature. You play in Aus/SA - expect bounce, play in England/NZ - expect Swing; play in the sub-continent - expect dust bowl! And yes, Drawn games are boring...but we should accept a hard fought DRAW as a good result.

  • Rishabh on October 4, 2010, 23:28 GMT

    Do not agree with you Aakash. Pitch has given a wonderful match with everybody getting the rewards for hard work be it batters,pacers or spinners. One never expects a pacy , bouncy pitch in India but this one is much better then all the feather-beds laid out in last 2 years.

  • Harvey on October 4, 2010, 23:25 GMT

    I completely disagree with you about the pitch. So far it's been a very enjoyable match. Day 1 was a bit slow, but sometimes that's what's required in a Test match. Regarding the low attendances this venue draws for Tests nowadays, I'm not sure whether it's the case this time, but when England visited in 2008, the nearest ticket outlet was a bank several km away, which wasn't even open in time for people who braved all the inconveniences (multiple body searches, etc.) to catch the start of play! For me the question is why does the BCCI keep awarding so many Tests to venues like Mohali which make so little effort to attract people along? I bet if the BCCI was to announce that venues attracting the best crowds will be treated more favourably in future when it comes to getting international matches, we would magically see crowds at places like Mohali and Ahmedabad increase. The nonsense of selling only 5-day passes with no tickets for individual days would immediately disappear, too.

  • Srini on October 4, 2010, 22:16 GMT

    It is the mindset of Team/Captain that dictated how the Test match results turned out to be. One can check this trend through out Test history. The pitches only played a small though not insignificant part in the results.

    With the unqualified success of T20 Cricket, it is only a matter of time before both Test and ODI (50 over format) will be forced to change their structure.

    In not so distant future, I see Test cricket innings will be limited by number of overs in both innings which will guarantee a shortened version in terms on length and result for every match.

    Test match draws will be a thing of the past in the next 5 to 10 (max) years time.

  • ravs on October 4, 2010, 21:44 GMT

    nope...decent pitch

  • Suyash on October 4, 2010, 19:37 GMT

    It has been a very riveting, from the first session itself. We have witnessed lots of joyful personal battles as well. Contrary from what you say, this test match has been a perfect advertisement for Test match cricket. Infact Pacers have dominated the show in Mohali, though i agree that this ground isnt the pacy track it used to be. But the skill and the agression shown by zaheer and johnson was amazing. hoping a great day of cricket ahead !!

  • Steven on October 4, 2010, 18:38 GMT

    "If it wasn’t for the SG Test ball which helps the spinners with its pronounced seam and assists the pacers with reverse swing, bowlers may start mulling over their availability for the venue. "

    I wonder if a standardised test match ball is a good or bad idea? I can think of a few pros and a few cons, but maybe its worth a try ?

  • Nirvanam on October 4, 2010, 17:05 GMT

    Sorry Akash, You got it wring this time...pitches don't become poor if they don't suit fast bowling neither do they become great if they support fast bowling. A poor Test pitch is one that significantly alters the balance between bat and ball, that should be the only criteria for deciding what is a poor pitch. Also, that criteria does not mean if a match does not go into the 5th day then the pitch is poor. Ideally a pitch must produce a result in 4 days so that the 5th day can be as insurance against a total road.

    And please, you must know better than having to stick to an age old viewpoint that the subcontinent is full of flat wickets. If the wickets are flat here how come greats like Ponting don't make merry here. The fact is these conditions are different from England-NZ which themselves are different from Aus-SA. The diversity presents the best players with diff challenges.

    So let's pls cut this crap about Mohali being a poor pitch

  • Sundar on October 4, 2010, 17:03 GMT

    Aakash I don't agree. See the balls 20.5 (Australia second innings, M Clarke's wicket), 11.5 and 13.2 (Sehwag and Raina's wickets in India's second innings). Infact, it is the opposite of what you state. To extract this much bounce by the bowlers on the 4th day in a sub-continent pitch is simply awesome and rare. The whole reason why the match is see-sawing even on the 5th day.

  • ausfan on October 4, 2010, 13:43 GMT

    Yeah I dunno if I agree as well . Been a cracker of a match this , lots of runs in the 1st innings with bowlers being rewarded for good deliveries.Pitch has deteriorated slightly giving the bowlers a slight advantage in the 2nd bout.

    I cannot wait to see how this one turns out , it looks like it's gonna be a nailbiter.

  • DC on October 4, 2010, 13:21 GMT

    Spoke too soon? Pitch seems a classic test match cricket. spin, bounce, uneven bounce. and good for batsmen who dig in!

  • A Bisht on October 4, 2010, 12:53 GMT

    I agree T_Nagar, the match is very live and bowlers are getting incentives if they know their art well. Batsmen, for that matter, have to stick to play well.

  • Kundra on October 4, 2010, 12:25 GMT

    I completely disagree with writer's view about the pitch here. We have a great test match with a definite result tomorrow and you are saying that. Please note that this is Mohali and not Perth. Considering Mohali pitch's previous record, this is a much improved test match pitch, there is a bit for everyone including spinners, fast-bowlers, seamers and batsmen too! And yes, when you say that the stands are empty and not enough audience around. This is purely because of India going crazy for the 20-20 stuff and indian media stupendously boasting 20-20 leagues and not providing us with real cricket discussion. Of course, there are people like me and you who still love test cricket and enjoy every bit of it, but as we all know, majority of cricket fans are inclined towards shorter form of the game. The cricket board, media & public need to look after the big games from now on.

  • Tanishth on October 4, 2010, 11:53 GMT

    @ T_Nagar

    Bro, i am from Mohali only and comments from Mr. Aakash Chopra are true to the word. The pitch is nothing like it used to be. This is the track where India was bowled out for 83 runs in 1st innings against New Zealand in 1999. Here only Munaf Patel rattled the English batsmen in 2006. But now its a typical Indian track. Bounce is so uneven. The pitch curator Mr. Daljit Singh has lost his magic i guess. And the low turn out is really very surprising. Although, it can be attributed to the fact that it is very hot here in afternoon and so people are skipping the game. But this is very sad for test cricket, which for me is the Mother of all forms of the game.

  • rachit on October 4, 2010, 11:03 GMT

    i would have to disagree strongly here...while the pitch is not the fast n bouncy one that we knw n luv, its still a very good test match pitch...and one just needs to look at the match state right now to see that! a graft for the batsmen, reverse swing, spin...its got everything!! n yeah, its not the raging turner either (lest the white cricketing world starts calling it shameful n not fit for cricket, while blatant green tops r considered fine by them!!)

  • Mark on October 4, 2010, 10:37 GMT

    Aakash what are you talking about? Wickets, Runs and most probably a result. What exactly do you look for in a test match?

  • vishwa sandeep on October 4, 2010, 9:07 GMT

    sorry mate,i feel u r wrong as it has something for everybody.......be it fast bowler or spinner.be it sehwag aur dravid be it dhoni or ponting.......more importantly if all three result is possible then a track can,t be termed as bad wicket..........

  • Jamal on October 4, 2010, 8:51 GMT

    I totally agree with u what else you need from a pitch

  • Gaurav mittal on October 4, 2010, 6:25 GMT

    I think that heavy rain fall for the past two months in Chandigarh region is the reason for the uneven bounce and slowness of the pitch. Even Daljit singh,curator of PCA stadium said that they were only able to dry the top surface and beneath that there is still moisture which is the reason for the uneven bounce.But as you said that 2008 game was also high scoring I think that was largely due to some good batting by Gambhir and Dravid .

  • Abhishek on October 4, 2010, 6:15 GMT

    Mohali pitch is one of the best pitches across India and still it is.U can't have a green top against australians.Taking 20 wickets in less than 270 overs clearly signifies how well yhe pitch has bahaved,but yes wicket has slowed a bit as compared to '99 n 2000. Now it has provided enough to get the spinners into action

  • T_Nagar on October 4, 2010, 4:31 GMT

    Mate, I don't agree. The fact that 20 wickets were lost over a period of 3 days and 800 runs were scored shows that the wicket is not poor. At the end of 3rd day, all three results are possible. What else you need? Both Zak and Mitchell have taken 5 wickets each with their reverse swing.It's an even balance between bat and ball on this pitch.

    Cheers.

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  • T_Nagar on October 4, 2010, 4:31 GMT

    Mate, I don't agree. The fact that 20 wickets were lost over a period of 3 days and 800 runs were scored shows that the wicket is not poor. At the end of 3rd day, all three results are possible. What else you need? Both Zak and Mitchell have taken 5 wickets each with their reverse swing.It's an even balance between bat and ball on this pitch.

    Cheers.

  • Abhishek on October 4, 2010, 6:15 GMT

    Mohali pitch is one of the best pitches across India and still it is.U can't have a green top against australians.Taking 20 wickets in less than 270 overs clearly signifies how well yhe pitch has bahaved,but yes wicket has slowed a bit as compared to '99 n 2000. Now it has provided enough to get the spinners into action

  • Gaurav mittal on October 4, 2010, 6:25 GMT

    I think that heavy rain fall for the past two months in Chandigarh region is the reason for the uneven bounce and slowness of the pitch. Even Daljit singh,curator of PCA stadium said that they were only able to dry the top surface and beneath that there is still moisture which is the reason for the uneven bounce.But as you said that 2008 game was also high scoring I think that was largely due to some good batting by Gambhir and Dravid .

  • Jamal on October 4, 2010, 8:51 GMT

    I totally agree with u what else you need from a pitch

  • vishwa sandeep on October 4, 2010, 9:07 GMT

    sorry mate,i feel u r wrong as it has something for everybody.......be it fast bowler or spinner.be it sehwag aur dravid be it dhoni or ponting.......more importantly if all three result is possible then a track can,t be termed as bad wicket..........

  • Mark on October 4, 2010, 10:37 GMT

    Aakash what are you talking about? Wickets, Runs and most probably a result. What exactly do you look for in a test match?

  • rachit on October 4, 2010, 11:03 GMT

    i would have to disagree strongly here...while the pitch is not the fast n bouncy one that we knw n luv, its still a very good test match pitch...and one just needs to look at the match state right now to see that! a graft for the batsmen, reverse swing, spin...its got everything!! n yeah, its not the raging turner either (lest the white cricketing world starts calling it shameful n not fit for cricket, while blatant green tops r considered fine by them!!)

  • Tanishth on October 4, 2010, 11:53 GMT

    @ T_Nagar

    Bro, i am from Mohali only and comments from Mr. Aakash Chopra are true to the word. The pitch is nothing like it used to be. This is the track where India was bowled out for 83 runs in 1st innings against New Zealand in 1999. Here only Munaf Patel rattled the English batsmen in 2006. But now its a typical Indian track. Bounce is so uneven. The pitch curator Mr. Daljit Singh has lost his magic i guess. And the low turn out is really very surprising. Although, it can be attributed to the fact that it is very hot here in afternoon and so people are skipping the game. But this is very sad for test cricket, which for me is the Mother of all forms of the game.

  • Kundra on October 4, 2010, 12:25 GMT

    I completely disagree with writer's view about the pitch here. We have a great test match with a definite result tomorrow and you are saying that. Please note that this is Mohali and not Perth. Considering Mohali pitch's previous record, this is a much improved test match pitch, there is a bit for everyone including spinners, fast-bowlers, seamers and batsmen too! And yes, when you say that the stands are empty and not enough audience around. This is purely because of India going crazy for the 20-20 stuff and indian media stupendously boasting 20-20 leagues and not providing us with real cricket discussion. Of course, there are people like me and you who still love test cricket and enjoy every bit of it, but as we all know, majority of cricket fans are inclined towards shorter form of the game. The cricket board, media & public need to look after the big games from now on.

  • A Bisht on October 4, 2010, 12:53 GMT

    I agree T_Nagar, the match is very live and bowlers are getting incentives if they know their art well. Batsmen, for that matter, have to stick to play well.