India v South Africa, 1st Test, Kanpur, 4th day November 23, 2004

No point blaming the pitch, says Wadekar

Ajit Wadekar during his time as India's captain in the 1970s © Getty Images

Ajit Wadekar, the former Indian captain and coach, feels that too much is being made of the quality of pitches used for Test matches. He said that India's recent dip in form was partly down to Sourav Ganguly being uncertain about his best game-plan.

"Sourav is getting confused whether to rely on pace or spin," Wadekar told Wisden Cricinfo at the launch of the Hat-Trick Cricket Academy in Mumbai, of which he has been appointed the director. "We have a very good set of medium-pacers, and it is important that we strike the right balance. During my time as the Indian coach, between 1992 and 1996, Kapil Dev was on his way out and we only had [Javagal] Srinath to rely on in the fast-bowling department. Now it is a different story. I think we need to sort out our strengths and play accordingly."

Having coached India through the glorious '90s, when they didn't lose a single series at home, Wadekar also felt that too much was being made of the quality of the Test pitches. "I think international teams should be willing to adapt to any sort of wicket," he said. "The Mumbai pitch was surely not a good one, but the ones at Nagpur and Kanpur were OK."

When asked about the current Test at Kanpur, which has been largely reduced to a snore-fest, Wadekar defended the curator, saying he was getting too much flak. "We played on Kanpur-type pitches even when I was the coach. The bowlers need to work out the batsmen. No point in blaming the pitch."

Wadekar added that John Wright, the current coach, needed to be more assertive, and called for a more interactive approach when matches were on. "I don't see messages being sent out to the captain. You have to do that, because you are getting another view of the game."

He also doffed his hat to Anil Kumble, who is on the verge of becoming India's highest wicket-taker, and said he was the ideal example of a bowler adapting to different conditions. "He is one of the greatest fighters I have ever seen. He will never complain about the track, and just go out there and slug it out."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo in India.