India v West Indies, 3rd Test, Mumbai, 3rd day November 24, 2011

A mortuary table for bowlers, and for Test cricket

Why is it that pitches that produce three-day results are scrutinised but ones that lead to dull draws are not?
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Whose game is it anyway? Three days of play at the Wankhede Stadium have seen just 13 wickets fall. For the bean counters that want to see five days of play, it's the ideal scenario. For anyone who wants to see a semblance of a contest between bat and ball, it's a reminder that Test matches in India these days usually don't offer such indulgences.

The same venue hosted a nail-biting Test match in 2004, when just over 200 overs of play saw India earn a 13-run victory over Australia. In Kanpur in 2008, another seesaw contest against South Africa saw India victorious in three days. Both pitches were severely criticised by match officials, despite producing results and exciting contests.

Needless to say, concrete-like slabs in the Middle East and at venues like Motera - they could double up as mortuary tables for bowlers - escape such harsh scrutiny. If you extend such perverse logic to another sport, it's like saying that a 12-round contest between two lumbering heavyweights who barely touch gloves is preferable to a hell-for-leather Hagler-Hearns fight that ends in four rounds.

Bowlers from both sides, and MS Dhoni, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the surfaces that this series has been played on. When informed of that, Gautam Gambhir suggested that they should just get on with it, that batsmen have to cope with green tops from time to time.

"You don't get five wickets or a century easily in Test cricket," he said.

That cliché has been exposed often enough in recent times, with pitches getting more and more placid around the world. The lowest completed score from a top-order batsman in this game is Virender Sehwag's 37. Everyone else has made at least 50.

Darren Bravo batted beautifully for his 166, but if you were to compare it with Michael Clarke's 151 in impossibly hard conditions at Newlands, you might think you were watching a different sport. Not one innings played so far is worthy of comparison with VVS Laxman's marvellous 69 in that 2004 game. And it's precisely because batsmen don't get tested often enough that you see the collapses that routinely occur when there's a hint of swing, seam movement or sharp turn.

With Sehwag not batting long enough to make a result a strong possibility, there's every likelihood this match will descend into nothing more than a statistical exercise. Something worthwhile will emerge from it only if the harsh sun succeeds in causing the pitch to crack and crumble a little over the final two days.

Gambhir seemed to think that it might happen. "Things change very quickly in India, especially on red soil. If we can make 550, we have two quality spinners to put some pressure on them and get a result."

We can only hope that the soil listens. If not, this match will join an inglorious list of recent no-contests that act as nails in Test cricket's coffin in this part of the world.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mars2009 on November 25, 2011, 11:49 GMT

    @ Henrik Lovén - Agreed 100% - The rise of Indian cricket team and fall of pitches standard at same time. Need some investigator journalist to go through it.

  • dummy4fb on November 25, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    This match will draw because of sachin . track is made for his hunderd. otherwise this test also ends in 3 days . India lost one test win for sachin 100.

  • ultimatewarrior on November 25, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    Why not ICC go for R&D on artificial pitches with a little bit of bounce and a little bit of turn and develop no. of similar pitches all around the world, so that all test matches can be some interesting ones and more importantly result oriented.....

  • mars2009 on November 25, 2011, 11:44 GMT

    This was tailor made wicket just for SRT ton but in vain.

  • indianzen on November 25, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    A test and a pitch sacrificed just expecting a ton from sachin? Even Sachin will not appreciate it....

  • dummy4fb on November 25, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    his pitch was made like this only for sachin to score a hundred.. thats it.. n he missed out... what a shame... not for he missing out on hundred but for such a flat wicket. its just too sad.

  • satish619chandar on November 25, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    Should we consider these flat tracks as a testing pitch for bowlers?

  • dummy4fb on November 25, 2011, 9:28 GMT

    it is a paradise for batsman... test cricket is changed now... people watching test cricket is just because results are coming now a days.. making such a batsman friendly wicket that a bowler gets a century .. then it must be horror dream for a bowler....i must say wickets like these are made only make some batting records.. not to entertain the viewer and bowler.... but one must think without a bowler you can't play cricket as you need someone to throw a ball towards you.....

  • here2rock on November 25, 2011, 9:15 GMT

    What is wrong with BCCI, why they can not get professional curators to prepare decent tracks? Their methods go 30 years back. They need fast bouncy tracks like England, Australia and South Africa to challenge to the number 1 position. Tracks like these they will always be bullies at home and sitting ducks aboard. Where is the common sense in this? What kind of preparation is this for a tough Australian Tour? The whole series the tracks have been horrible. God save Indian cricket!

  • OutCast on November 25, 2011, 8:53 GMT

    This whole series is set up for Indians pile of all the records... India is there to kill cricket and increasingly the empty seats are witnessing crickets nowadays... It is obvious that neither team is playing w/out a motive other than for their own fame and $$$... I can't swallow that someone like Ashwin score a century in a test match... man this is ridiculous...

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