South Africa v West Indies, World T20 2016, Group 1, Nagpur March 24, 2016

SA expect 'spinning deck' despite pitch change


Nagpur and pitches. It has always been a tetchy relationship and it grew a little more strained when, two days before it was set to host a World T20 match between South Africa and West Indies, the pitch for the game was switched.

According to media reports, the move from the pitch that hosted the low-scoring, spinner-dominated India-New Zealand match on March 15 to an adjacent one came at the behest of Andy Atkinson, the ICC's pitch consultant.

It remains to be seen how the new strip will play. Faf du Plessis, South Africa's captain, surmised that the move was made to ensure a less dry playing surface, but he still expected spin to play a significant role.

"When we got here, on the first day of practice the wicket was very dry, and we just prepared ourselves accordingly to play on it," du Plessis said. "Obviously it's changed a bit now, we're not playing on the same wicket.

"We knew that the ground will be a lot different here than it was at Mumbai [where South Africa played their first two matches]. So whether it was changed or not, it wouldn't have made too much difference to us. I assume that the reason they're changing it is to not be as dry, or not to spin as much as it possibly could have on that dry surface. But it's still two teams competing and possibly going to be a spinning deck, so I don't think too much will change."

Du Plessis said he was surprised by the variety of pitches on offer at the World T20, ranging from the square turner for the India-New Zealand game in Nagpur to a batting belter at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, where South Africa racked up 200-plus scores against England and Afghanistan.

"To be honest, I didn't expect it to be like this," he said. "Obviously playing a lot of IPL cricket for years now, I've found that wickets in IPL have generally been quite good and consistent. Barring one or two games through the IPL, you generally get similar runs on the board right through all the venues.

"This World Cup, it's been a little different. There's been almost both extremes, where we've had massive spinning wickets and real flat decks. So that will obviously produce some different quality of cricket, but it's not something I expected and certainly it's not something I'm used to from these conditions.

"But as I said, as a team, it's important that whatever the conditions, you have to be able to adapt. If you lose a game, you're not going to get the game back by complaining about the wicket. You have to try and make do with what you get."

Faf du Plessis says South Africa will be prepared for a significantly different surface in Nagpur © Getty Images

Given the constantly changing conditions, du Plessis stressed the need for teams to adapt quickly.

"I think for me what's been important, and I've spoken a lot about it to the guys, is the fact that we do rely as a team on being smart and to make the correct decisions on whatever the surface is on the day. I think if you consistently prepare for those sort of scenarios, where you need to adapt every day and you don't just rely on one gameplan and one specific batsman to come off, that's all you can do.

"As a team we do that very well, especially as a batting unit we adapt quickly and we're smart in our decision making. We've got guys that can play quite a few different roles and that's going to be the key here. If it's going to be a slow Bunsen burner, then we have to make the transition quicker than the West Indian team. Obviously they are a power-hitting team, so they realise their strength and also their weakness. But for us it's about being the smartest ones on the day."

JP Duminy has been ruled out of the West Indies match with a hamstring strain, and while he would have been a big miss anywhere, South Africa will feel his absence even more, as a batsman and an offspinner on a pitch that is expected to turn.

"I think people will see how important JP is to our team now that he's missing," du Plessis said. "He's an allrounder who, especially in these conditions, plays a role with both bat and ball - not even talking about his experience. There's a lot of talk that has gone into it, especially on who can be doing that sixth bowler's job as you would need at some time. As a captain, it's nice to have a guy you can rely on to bowl some overs. So that has created one or two headaches but we'll hopefully get the right combination."

With Duminy out, South Africa might be forced to include a second specialist spinner, in Aaron Phangiso, to support the legspinner Imran Tahir. It will leave du Plessis - who has already had to deal with dropping his pace spearhead Dale Steyn - with a quandary over which pace bowler to leave out.

"Yes, it's an extremely big headache to have, but it's one that's very nice to have - the fact that we've got real good options. Our bowlers stepped up, Kagiso [Rabada] has been amazing, Kyle Abbott has been almost a silent assassin. He does his job without anyone knowing, and then you've got the experience of Dale Steyn. It is a big headache, but it's a nice one to have. We've had a few of these headaches with the selection of this game, but as I said before, the main thing for me is that we as a team have for the first time depth in our squad and we're allowing all that depth now to come through."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 25, 2016, 13:14 GMT

    Pakistan, India and NZ all got bowled out for low totals v Australia in the QF,SF and Final. Wondering how those tracks were so flat and useless for fast bowlers? Can't eat your cake and have it too.

  • CricSA on March 25, 2016, 7:29 GMT

    What words from du Plessis. He'll guide the team to adapt the things in any situation, and the team is ready enough even though we lost Duminy. Come on boys...!

  • Android on March 25, 2016, 6:58 GMT

    sa 11- amla, dekock, devilliers, duplessis, duminy, rabada, abott, tahir, phangiso should have selected harmer in place of phangiso or steyn ..

  • mahesh on March 24, 2016, 19:48 GMT

    To be fair, good wickets these days are hard to come by. BD had too green pitches for asia Cup, Australia has been preparing extremely flat pichtest (WC'15 and last Ind-Aus series), english pitches of late have also been slow or too flat. Good pitches are not common anymore.

  • viraj on March 24, 2016, 18:20 GMT

    @KingOwl...during WC'15 wickets in Aus were flat! There was hardly any help for fast bowlers, tracks in NZ suited fast bowlers more! Wickets in India are helping spinners as expected, some people just like bashing India these days for whatever reason they get!

  • Channan on March 24, 2016, 18:06 GMT

    If you South Africans read my post before the world cup you would have noticed I said that you need two good spinners because of the Sub continent conditions. Did you take note? NZ has performed miracles so far, why?

  • Dramit Singh on March 24, 2016, 17:16 GMT

    @LERATO H NYELELE MJOLI.dont worry mate.this nagpur pitch for world t20 would play much much better than what it played during the test match between india and wont be a rank turner but it would be dry,low and slow.if the batsman play patiencely then definitely runs can be scored.also nagpur ground is a big one so you don't have to hit each n every ball for a boundry and rather just place the ball in gaps and you can easily run 2_3 runs on a consistent it would be a challenge physicali too for the batsman as they will have run singles and doubles on a consistent basis.

  • Lerato H Nyelele Mjoli on March 24, 2016, 16:33 GMT

    I hope we don't play for the invisible spin like the last time we were at nagpoor but play every ball well if it's trash it must be dispatched fafs helping hand of opposition's bad balls must end.....

  • Dramit Singh on March 24, 2016, 15:21 GMT

    Andy Atkinson should have come into the play right from the start of the world cup.Now being an indian I know the weather here very well.nagpur is the exact centre part of india and one of the driest part of when summer season is setting in the normal temperatures in nagpur during this time is 38_40 degree celcius.even after knowing this I am just clueless that why the hell did curator taposh chatterji decided to prepare just two pitches for this tournament.also all the warm up matches,six qualifying round matches were all ready being played on this two how can you play 10_12 t20 games on just two pitches and that too at a place like nagpur which comes in drier zone.taposh is a experienced curator and I have seen him preparing some really quick and pacy pitches at some other venues of india.anyways I wasnt expecting this from him for a prestigious tournament like exactly the same thing happened in hpca ground in dharamshala.there normally the square is a quick and pacy one with even covering of grass on it.i was absloutely shocked to see the bald and dry pitches there too though even there the square was being overused as all warmup and qualifying round matches beside some 3_4 super 10 round matches were played on it.The biggest mistake the curators at both these centres did was that they dint leave grass on the pitches used.its really frustrating to see low scoring matches at both these great venues.

  • Chatty on March 24, 2016, 14:42 GMT

    At a WC, what you expect is consistent and predictable conditions. In India, you would expect turning wickets everywhere. Wickets that help spin bowlers, but not dust bowls. In Aus/NZ, during the WC, the wickets helped the fast bowlers and not the spinners. But what you get in the WC is unpredictable wickets. That is really bad for a WC.

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