England in India 2012-13

Dhoni right to bemoan slow pitches

MS Dhoni's comments about want more bounce in pitches has already sparked debate, but the captain's views are well thought out and argued

Sidharth Monga

November 20, 2012

Comments: 181 | Text size: A | A

Pragyan Ojha with his team-mates after taking a wicket, India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 2nd day, August 24, 2012
Pragyan Ojha took nine wickets in the first Test but MS Dhoni wants more bounce for his spinners © AFP
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For all he might have done wrong over the last 18 months, MS Dhoni can't be faulted for his calls for pitches that will make for more exciting Test cricket, pitches with bounce and turn as opposed to ones with no bounce and slow turn. The Sardar Patel Stadium pitch definitely fell in the latter category, and that is why Dhoni "doesn't even want to look at it". And it's good to see that Dhoni's pleas aren't being affected by results.

India might have won the Ahmedabad Test - and to outsiders it might look like the perfect pitch, negating the England fast bowlers and offering some help to the Indian spinners - but it was just the kind of track India have had a problem with. A better batting line-up or better application from this line-up or a different outcome at the toss would have ensured a drab draw. For a while it seemed that India were uncertain about their own batting and had opted for safety in the first Test, but Dhoni's press conference cleared those doubts.

Ever since he made that call, Dhoni is being criticised for openly asking groundsmen to "doctor the pitches". Among others, Steve Waugh, former Australia captain, told PTI: "Dhoni's comments this morning were really negative to the game, when he asked Indian curators to doctor the pitches, which I can't understand.

"You want to be aggressive and be the best in the world, you have got to take all the conditions and not always ask for the conditions that suits your style of play. I was a bit surprised with that. I think if you are looking to be the best in the world you have got to learn to play in all conditions."

While Waugh is right in repeating that India need to play well in all conditions, he will also know it is not done through pitches in home Tests. Australia didn't prepare for their India tours through rank turners at Gabba. The other thing that is often forgotten is Dhoni has been driven into making these statements by groundsmen who just don't play ball. At times, even Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble have struggled to get groundsmen to give them home advantage.

Dhoni is not "always" asking for these conditions; he is almost pleading, "For once, let me have them." Nor is he the first captain to have asked for certain conditions in a home Test; it's just that he is doing so openly because covert conversations haven't had any effect.

Dhoni's first Test as captain was in Kanpur in 2008, a square turner that produced an exciting Test that ended in three days. Dhoni was standing in for the injured Anil Kumble then. Later that year, Kumble retired, and Dhoni took over full time. It's been four years since, and Dhoni has yet to captain India on a proper turner.

Consequently, even during their best times, India couldn't whitewash Sri Lanka, New Zealand and West Indies in series longer than two Tests, forget stronger teams. In four years, there hasn't been a single pitch in India that would test the batsmen to the fullest, and that is a variety the game needs just as much as it does the green and overcast Headingley or Kingsmead's Green Mamba or WACA's trampoline bounce.

Dhoni and his spinners' main grouse with pitches in India has for long been the lack of bounce more than the turn, but all India has seen over the last four years is low and slow pitches. Contrary to the belief that Dhoni is asking for the easy way out, pitches with turn and bounce will only even the playing field. If it will make life a little easier for the Indian bowlers, England's fast bowlers will also prefer the bounce, Graeme Swann will become more effective, and also England's batsmen will find value for their shots.

To blame the groundsmen alone can't be the solution, though. The ICC doesn't like the ball turning from day one. It wants to standardise all pitches. In Galle last year, Michael Hussey and Mahela Jayawardene played two of their most-cherished innings, and Australia posted one of their most-cherished wins, only because the conditions were so difficult. The ICC, though, put the groundsman on notice. It is perfectly understandable for the Indian groundsmen to not risk the Jayananda Warnaweera fate.

Dhoni, though, in his own way, tried to emphasise the ICC shouldn't have a problem with turn on the first day because it doesn't have a problem with seam on the first morning. Change that claim with seam on the third or fourth day, and Dhoni is on to something. Except that, if the groundsmen do oblige Dhoni the captain in the upcoming Tests, Dhoni the keeper will have to raise his game drastically: his missed stumpings, especially that of Nick Compton when he wasn't even expecting the ball to come to him, didn't make for good viewing. That, though, is a story for another day.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 15:13 GMT)

Dhoni had to call for turning track because some "wise" curator in India thinks they know cricket better than anybody else. Curators in Eng/Aus/SA have the basic intelligence to understand which kind of pitch will suit home team or will not suit the visiting team and prepare pitches accordingly (Aus pitches for SA series a good example, Clarke did not need to request curators for that). Regarding toss advantage in a dust bowl , I would like to know whether winning toss is less important in a seaming condition in the first day of a test (say in Trent Bridge). India need to learn to play well in foreign condition to become a good test team but similarly England need to learn to play spin to be respected. A real good team should be able to win in all conditions including so called dust bowls- just ridiculing Indian pitches is old disease of cricket pundit of England/Australia who cannot accept their failure against spin.

Posted by   on (November 23, 2012, 14:44 GMT)

Dhoni is absolutely right asking grounds man for lively pitches with turn and bounce. I don't see any wrong. When England was doing the same thing in their backyard,that time we were just looking for our batsmen failure. Cricket is always played like that last many years. Only thing Dhoni discover that BCCI and Cricket India has very thick skin, this is the best way to interact with grounds men via media. We don't need dead pitches, we need live pitches so that our batsmen should in hence their skill to play in tough conditions.Our spinners are not highly rated as Swan(he is the no. one in the world), so how it will help only Indian spinners.Bouncing and spinning track will only make batsman's life uneasy same for India or England.This just a myth that Indian are the best players of spin bowling, right is few great Indian player played spin bowling in past.

Posted by maruthikrish83 on (November 22, 2012, 9:34 GMT)

When Steve Waugh says that MSD shouldn't be asking curators to doctor the pitches, what happened to Adam Gilchrist's comments on asking for home advantage when Dravid and Laxman won the Adelaide test.

When they can ask for home advantage in their backyard, why can't MSD ask for turn and bounce?

Posted by Valavan on (November 22, 2012, 7:46 GMT)

@Gupta.Ankur, you are partly right and partly wrong. What you have said about venues back in SA/Aus/Eng is true. they dont change it at all, so the cricketers who play there knows exactly what the pitch gives, moreover every local Cricket association (example, Warwickshire, Yorkshire, NSW so on) prepare the pitches as required by the association and neither ECB nor CA can ask to doctor it. Even the national captains are not allowed to ask to doctor pitches. In India Dhoni is asking to doctor the pitch, that was the unacceptable part, instead they must be ready to play whatever track available or produced by the association. His requirement of turn and bounce can also help England, leg cutters, out swingers and angling deliveries for a paceman can get it better when there is a bounce and turn. The only disadvantage of that is win toss and bat first will always dominate as the fifth day pitch can get more turn and bounce and even 150 seems defendable. cricinfo please publish.

Posted by chapathishot on (November 22, 2012, 7:09 GMT)

nilb: We have seen it pakistan bowled out twice in a day in England and Srilanka in southafrica was not worthy even to comment.So You check your facts and comment and dont judge the Indian performances by the last two away series.As both Pakistan and Srilanka have not even drawn a test series in either Austrailia ,England or South Africa in last so many years where as India have won series in England and drawn series in Austrailia and South Africa and were unlucky not to have won test series in SA

Posted by Gupta.Ankur on (November 22, 2012, 6:19 GMT)

The problem is two-fold: 1. In SA/Aus/Eng the nature of pitch has not been altered in ages and evryone who grows-up in these countries know how these pitches will behave at test venues

2. General perception is that a pitch is good only if it has bounce/pace and swing...in short if it suits the original powers of the game Eng&Aus

Spinning pitches are forever looked down upon as Aus/Eng don't do well on it.....Even ex-cricketers from India don't look too favorably at spinning wickets....

Posted by PointFielder on (November 22, 2012, 6:11 GMT)

Is Steve Waugh sleeping now?

1st test Vs SA (Brisbane): 450,565/5 2nd Test (Adelaide): 369/4.

Are these bowler friendly wickets?

Posted by Meety on (November 22, 2012, 2:54 GMT)

I have been critical of some of Dhoni's comments of late, from blaming rain in the T20, to being critical of umpires. He is however right here. Pitches need to have some sort of life in it. I have ZERO problems with turning pitches, my preference is for them to turn AFTER the 1st day, & on the first day there be some bounce & seam movement.

Posted by nilb on (November 22, 2012, 1:06 GMT)

Only India need flattest dust bowls to play their cricket.. Pakistan and Sri Lanka can adapt to bouncy pitches. No other sub continent team fail miserably like India in fast bouncy tracks.

Posted by enigma77543 on (November 21, 2012, 18:41 GMT)

And what is this nonsense by ICC about "standardizing" pitches! The only requirement for a pitch should be that it's not so bad that the ball is dangerously uneven right from the start of the Test, other than that there's no need to impose anything else on curators. The variety of pitches we see around the world offering pace, seam, spin, uneven bounce, etc in varying degrees only makes things more interesting for the sport as a whole & therefore curators & teams should have that freedom. And as Dhoni says, if ICC has problem with pitches turning on day one then they should also ban pitches that seam or bounce on day one!

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