Aakash Chopra
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Former India opener; author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season

Poor pitches make a mockery of the game

When cricket becomes a lottery because of the playing surface, it's not fair on the players or the viewers

Aakash Chopra

March 27, 2013

Comments: 78 | Text size: A | A

Ajinkya Rahane gets hit on the helmet, India v Australia, 4th Test, Delhi, 2nd day, March 23, 2013
Variable bounce can make a lottery of a Test match © BCCI
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What makes Test cricket compelling? To some extent it is the fact that it showcases traits like technique and temperament, which are hard to acquire and more fascinating still to watch. Yet these two crucial aspects of Test cricket do not alone make for a good contest. The quality of the playing XI and the pitch for a match are crucial. If a game is between two equally matched sides, it is likely to make for riveting viewing; matches between mismatched sides held over five days can be disappointingly boring. And in the former case, the pitch is paramount, for when two equally matched do battle, those 22 yards are of great import; if the pitch isn't fair to all participants, the match will most likely be reduced to a farce.

The recent Test match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Galle turned out to be a run fest. However much we like underdogs holding their own and challenging the top sides, in this case we couldn't much appreciate Bangladesh's efforts to draw the Test, simply because of the flat batting conditions. It was a highway in the garb of a cricket pitch and the outcome didn't reflect the quality or the effort put in by bowlers from both sides. It, quite rightly, received flak.

At a time when Test cricket is fighting for survival, producing such pitches is blasphemous. If the pitch in Galle was at one end of the spectrum, the pitch on which the Delhi Test was played last week is at the other end. While the pitch in Delhi did produce a result (the match got over in three days), it wasn't fair on all the participants. The pitch on day one looked more like a day-three one; it played tricks from the very first session. While there's nothing wrong in preparing pitches that challenge the batsmen, the pitch at the Kotla skewed the balance unfairly in favour of the bowlers. It was no longer about the skills of the bowler getting the better of the batsman, but about the conditions forcing the batsmen into making mistakes. In the over in which Ishant Sharma hit Phil Hughes on the head, the variation in bounce from almost identical spots on the pitch was close to 50cm, at similar speeds, which is a little too much to deal with.

Cricket is a game based on assumptions by the players, which in turn are based on the experience of playing on different surfaces. When a new batsman goes in to bat, he tries to gauge the pace and bounce of the pitch to formulate his approach. If the pitch has less bounce, he will try to go forward to everything except the ones dug in really short. He will also make a mental note to shelve the horizontal bat shots and play with a straight bat for as long as possible. It is the same for the bowlers, for they adjust their length according to the pace and bounce and their lines according to the lateral movement off the surface. If there's little bounce, a bowler will drag his length back a bit, and if there's not much sideways movement, he will likely look to keep it as straight as possible.

 
 
You might have superior skills and the experience to deal with tough conditions, but it counts for precious little if the ball rears from a good length, finds the edge and goes to the waiting short-leg fielder
 

If the bounce or pace are too inconsistent, the skills to tackle it become moot. When one ball stays alarmingly low and the other bounces more than anticipated from the same spot, run-scoring becomes a lot about luck. You might have superior skills and the experience to deal with tough conditions, but it counts for precious little if the ball rears from a good length, finds the edge and goes to the waiting short-leg fielder. If you're lucky, the ball that rolls along the surface will miss the off stump, and if you aren't, it will crash into your pads. The ball that misbehaved might not get your wicket, but that invariably sets you up for a dismissal on the deliveries to follow: once the ball behaves in an unpredictable way, it's only human to be a little circumspect and expect similar the next time. That makes you, the batsman, a sitting duck. On such pitches even the bowler isn't sure about how the ball is going to behave after it pitches: it might turn and bounce or it might stay low and go straight. It goes without saying that if the bowler doesn't know for sure, you can't blame the batsman for not knowing.

Cricket is largely dominated by luck, for even if you've been the best bowler all through the day, you may end up with the fewest wickets to show for it. As a batsman, you may have prepared thoroughly for a match, but a good ball or a bad decision might finish your innings abruptly. To add to that, if the conditions further enhance the importance of luck in succeeding, it ceases to be a fair contest. A good pitch should challenge and reward the deployment of skills, but if a pitch is far too inconsistent right from the start of a match, it becomes a bit of a lottery. Also, such pitches inflate the figures of otherwise inferior bowlers. Just as highways don't reflect a batsman's true quality, such pitches don't make for a correct appraisal of a bowler either.

The pitches that we saw on India's tour to New Zealand in 2002-03 had so much lateral movement that it was literally impossible to put bat to ball, irrespective of your technical prowess. I'm tempted to put last week's pitch at the Kotla in the same bracket. Such pitches will always produce a result, which is assumed to be the best way for viewers to get their money's worth, but I'm not sure if that's fair play to the 22 players involved.

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

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Posted by Cs1987 on (March 30, 2013, 5:15 GMT)

I completely agree with you Aakash, and it is unfortunate to see that most of the commenters here seem to disagree. The idea that any pitch that produces results is a good pitch is a gross oversimplification of what makes cricket such a beautiful game. A good pitch is one that is good for batting and pace bowling early on in the Test, then deteriorates slowly and allows spin to become the dominant form of bowling in the last two days. A pitch that is unpredictable and favours spinners right from the start of the Test and only becomes more so as the game progresses, forcing batsmen to bat very defensively against the spinners and making pace bowlers virtually useless for the entire Test, is simply a bad pitch and inevitably results in boring cricket. Also, to anyone from the subcontinent who disagrees with Aakash please answer this question - if Indian pitches are good pitches that promote entertaining cricket, then why are the majority of Ranji Trophy matches very high scoring draws?

Posted by CricketFanIndUS on (March 29, 2013, 0:57 GMT)

A rank turner or an unpredictable pitch like the last Delhi wicket is not a good choice at home for India. The chances of losing increase. Average spinners can become dangerous on a rank turner. Unpredictable pitches can fail good batsmen even if their technique and temperament are good. Those wickets also take some of the fun out of batting. I did not enjoy the Delhi test as much as the first three.

Posted by VickGower on (March 28, 2013, 19:59 GMT)

If it were luck, Australia would have won the Delhi test after losing the first three. That 3-0 became 4-0 (EVEN after Australia won the toss) ought to have been sufficiently telling about the role Luck had to play in this. The utter ease with which Pujara and Siddle batted showed us that the challenge was different, not impossible. By the way, how in the world do you design a pitch that finishes in exactly 5 days. Not less, not more, and meets every single criteria of all the armchair pundits: that is, should have no uneven bounce, should have even turn (between 25-30 degs) etc etc. It's absurd!!

Posted by   on (March 28, 2013, 15:13 GMT)

Delhi was without a shadow of doubt a difficult wicket to bat on, but there were players who saw through it and scored runs nevertheless.In my opinion that is what is good cricket-overcoming the challenges.You are bound to come up against difficult conditions,both as a bowler and a bat, playing across venues in the modern era, but it's mostly your skills, and the mental place that you are in that will help you rise above the challenges.Siddle was the highest run getter for Australia in Delhi-this might have a lot to do with his skills,but one can't rule out the factor of he being in a positive frame of mind after the impressive return to bowling form in Mohali.Siddle was able to subdue the spite of the track,and so were Kohli and Pujara, and one can't doubt their skills and temperament(Kohli's a touch).Good players should be able to adapt themselves to different conditions.

Posted by Cricketfan11111 on (March 28, 2013, 14:22 GMT)

Whatever all your opinions are, India will always produce spin friendly pitches. Spin bowling is India's strength and Indian batsmen are very good at playing spin bowling. If you expect anything else, you are not logical. Only thing to avoid is minefield of a pitch with too uneven bounce where all batsmen need luck to survive and batting is dangerous.

Posted by   on (March 28, 2013, 12:14 GMT)

Bring on the horror pitches I say...makes for fantastic viewing...luck or perhaps fate will always play its part...thats life...who wants to watch sehwag make a run-a-ball 300 in a test match...just pointless!

Posted by   on (March 28, 2013, 10:53 GMT)

Cricket is a game of luck? This is quite myopic especially coming from a former test player. I believe we need wickets such as the Kotla in cricket because batsman cant always adopt the same technique. Thats what test cricket is all about, "a test" of technique and mental endurance. Cheteshwar Pujara had a torrid time in the middle but he stuck it out and batted magnificently. Murali Vijay did the same in the first innings. Ravindra Jadeja had a fine cameo that was brilliant with great timing. Once we say cricket is about luck it takes away the fact that one needs to concentrate and to have a solid technique. @ Match Referee: spin is hard to master contrary to what you believe. If you are referring to Ravindra Jadeja as a part timer then you are mistaken mate

Posted by itismenithin on (March 28, 2013, 9:55 GMT)

Spot on Aakash, can't agree more. A good pitch should have something for both bowlers and batters(not sure why many don't think so). The recent delhi one was total disgrace, a test match between two decent teams don't get over in two days unless one party played really badly or the pitch was a shocker. I would be inclined to think it is the latter. On these tracks both Ajmal and Jadeja can easily get a fiver and ppl might start to think Jadeja is in the same class Ajmal(i hope he gets into that league soon). Also for batsman surviving on these tracks is almost impossible irrespective of the technique and application he shows since an unplayable delivery is always round the corner. Good turning tracks is fine but should offer consistent bounce atleast for the first few days and shouldn't be a dust bowl from day one.

Posted by moBlue on (March 28, 2013, 9:39 GMT)

aakash, it is rare for me to be entirely on the opposite side with my viewpoint but i'm totally with arunrajaram here! for decades, i've gotten tired of watching test matches being played either on batsman-friendly pitches (which offer little lateral movement) or on fast-and-seaming pitches... but rarely have i watched test matches played on pitches which offer assistance to quality spin bowling!!!

i agree with you to the limited extent that *inconsistent* bounce is no good! but in light of all the poohpoohing of the IND pitches as "dustbowls" and the like by smirking oz fans- despite compelling evidence that IND batters could handle these conditions very well, posting 400-plus scores, thereby suggesting the inferiority in talent of both the oz batters and their spinners - your article seems to suggest agreement with the point of view that turning pitches (with good, consistent bounce) are intrinsically bad for test cricket!!! the latter is a point with which i couldn't disagree more!

Posted by   on (March 28, 2013, 7:25 GMT)

Some pitches bounce,some spin, some seam and some don't. All of these different wickets are fine as long as that it is the natural state of the wicket. When i heard that currators were defying explicit instructions from Dhoni to fix the wickets during the English tour then that was alarming. Only when wickets hit the extremes of heavily favouring batters or bowlers, only then, should outside parties interfere with a currators work. Other then that everyone should but out!

Posted by pull_shot on (March 28, 2013, 7:09 GMT)

this is international cricket fellow not ur ranji games u have adjust to any thing. what's if test match finishes in 3 days, for me its good rest to players,spectators. no need to see a boring 100@(SR 30-40)

Posted by   on (March 28, 2013, 6:43 GMT)

Request to author, just dont plea for equal contest between bat and ball in test cricket, nobody wanna see draw test matches anymore. I am really surprise that people cant accept the fact that sometimes playing on rank turner shows your technique and mental strength. When Pujara can play in last innings then why not Oz players can apply themselves. Just dont underestimate yourself if you can play spin well, what you need to do is play well on seaming track. And if Oz cant play spin well, its their problem with technique. I am sure rank turner would not have been an issue if India were playing these matches against SL, PAK or even Bangladesh. If matches are getting over within 3-4 days on turners in India, same happens with pitches in England, SA and Australia.

Posted by yoogi on (March 28, 2013, 6:15 GMT)

It is good to see coming from an experienced player that cricket is a luck-based game. But then Test cricket, the least of all formats that relies more on lucj simply because without skill you cannot produce 20 lucky deliveries that goes through batsman's defense to win the game. Luck is a factor when the pitch assists seam only in the first morning where 4-5 wickets fall cheaply and then nothing happens for the next four and a half days. Well, that is certainly heavy handed luck. But yet teams work around defending those hard hour and try to stay in the game without complaining.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 28, 2013, 5:03 GMT)

A question: "Would the result have been the same if India were playing England, or South Africa?" I think not. While the pitch may have been tough, players like Cook, Amla, Kallis etc would not have folded like a cheap pack of cards. Cook averaged 80 on his last India tour, with 3 centuries & a high of 190 in 4 matches. On his last 2 match tour Kallis averaged 67.66 with a high score of 173. On the same tour Amla scored 3 centuries in 3 inns, with a high score of 253 n/o and an average of 490!!! Steyn took 11 wickets at an ave of 20.27 & a strike rate of 35.3, and he was not spinning the ball!

The pitches weren't the reason Australia were rolled over & whitewashed! Their batting was terrible!

All countries have characteristic pitches. Aus' are like roads, at least when SA tour, except the infamous Perth where SA have never lost, & rolled Aus in their last 2 tours. Fact is, Aus can't play on spinning or seaming & bouncing tracks. They have become "road warriors," & nothing else. Sad.

Posted by Match_Referee on (March 28, 2013, 4:49 GMT)

Agree with Aakash and the fact is Kotla pitch is not a true Test match pitch becuase it is rank turner. People should not comapre high seam/swing wickets with rank turners. You can see even a part time spin bowler taking lot of wickets on rank turners. (Clarke in 2004 Mum test).Just roll your fingers and bowl on good length, rest of the job pitch will do. But you can never see a part time pace bowler to swing and take lot of wickets even on highly Swing conditions,only proper bowlers can do that... Becuase the fact is YOU NEED MORE SKILL, STAMINA, TALENT TO SWING THE BALL THAN TO SPIN THE BALL......

Posted by PratyushMR on (March 28, 2013, 4:16 GMT)

I completely agree with the author's view here. Cricket is about an equal contest between bat and ball and poor pitches really tend to make the game an unequal contest where the actual skill of the players cannot be judged. The game becomes more that of luck as the author mentions. We surely need to think about the making of pitches if Test cricket is to be kept alive.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 28, 2013, 4:04 GMT)

@ Mancho who wrote "I agree with arunrajaram that where were all the pundits when there was a low scoring game between SA and AUS in AUSTRALIA(not in INDIA) that resulted in 20+ wickets falling in one day."

Mancho, it is clear why you agree with arunrajaram. Like him, you do not appear to be at all familiar with the FACTS surrounding the match between SA & Aus. The match took place in South Africa, NOT in Australia, or India, the 2 countries you listed.

There was extensive match coverage. The pundits were on television and publishing press articles. Because you did not read them doesn't mean they were not published. The below link is to 38 articles published on cricinfo alone!! I suggest you read them all, especially the Wisden review. Wisden are the pundits pundit. The articles are from Nov 8, 2011 to Dec 20, 2012. That is "where the pundits were," & clearly where you were not!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/south-africa-v-australia-2011/content/story/index.html?object=514029;page=1

Posted by Greatest_Game on (March 28, 2013, 3:26 GMT)

@ arunrajaram asked " Where were all the pundits when SA ... last year ...were all out for 93 and Aus ... were shot out for 43?"

The match date is 2011, NOT 2012. SA scored 96, NOT 93. Aus scored for 47, NOT 43. You fail to quote ALL innings scores, & their sequence, which was: Aus, 284 (Clarke 151.) SA 98. Aus 47. SA 236/2. (Smith 101, Amla 112.) Integrity requires quoting ACTUAL scores, & ALL relevant figures.

The pundits were on the news, talking non-stop & writing as fast as they could type - Cricinfo lists 38 alone! The Wisden review (link below: read it) states clearly that of the two batting collapses "none ... could be blamed on the groundsman." Wisden IS the pundits pundit!

Please carefully read the following:THIS WAS NOT A PITCH PROBLEM! It has NOTHING in common with Aakash's article. Newlands is NOT like Dehli or Galle. To suggest any similarities is untrue, & promotes ignorance concerning these issues. http://www.espncricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/602800.htm

Posted by PratUSA on (March 28, 2013, 3:02 GMT)

I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the Delhi test. Stayed up all night on 3rd day to watch it (here in USA). May be 1 in 6 or 8 pitches is not as fair to players (read batsmen) as Aakash pointed out but if pitches are not fair to spectators there won't be any players needed. Also it's not like in other professions every day is fair to all. So Aakash rather uncharacteristically has got this one wrong. Pujara's innings on 3rd day showed that best batsman remains the best no matter what conditions. Lets bring this Kotla like pitch once every few tests.

Posted by   on (March 28, 2013, 2:32 GMT)

Well MS Dhoni really pointed out well and he said one thing "It is strategy to pick four fast bowlers but it is a bad pitch to if you pick three spinners" !!

Period- He said it very well so controversial opinions like yours do not matter....between why no mention of PERTH ?? ?? If perth is good then Delhi is great....we should have more pitches like Delhi.....

Really substandard article sir but i wonder even Cricinfo called DELHI pitch " bad " but never calls a perth pitch "bad" , even though matches finish inside 2-3 days...ahhh.....subcontinent teams can not do anything , is it ??

Posted by McGorium on (March 28, 2013, 2:17 GMT)

As Stanislavski might have said, there are no poor pitches, only poor players. I've seen Rahul Dravid play on a poor pitch at Kingston, one on which even the great Lara struggled. Lara said he hadn't seen a better innings on such a surface. Your reasoning too is specious: batsmen go forward or back to certain lengths for a pitch, any unevenness in bounce takes this skill out of the equation. I argue that this is not skill at all, merely muscle memory. Skill is what Dravid had, to adjust his technique to the surface, and not play as if you were batting on a flat track. Sure, he played and missed (as often as he would at Headingley), and sure he had some luck (ditto at Headingley) but that's why he's the best batsman on a difficult track in recent times. This pitch wasn't unplayable: if all batsmen batted like Siddle or Pujara, we'd have a 350+ score in each innings. Regrettably, most batsmen on both sides didn't have the patience to cope. Sign of the times, perhaps...

Posted by   on (March 28, 2013, 0:31 GMT)

End of the day, two teams have played on the same track which we can fairly tough contest on the toughest track.

Posted by Mancho on (March 27, 2013, 21:22 GMT)

Dear aakash...I agree with arunrajaram that where were all the pundits when there was a low scoring game between SA and AUS in AUSTRALIA(not in INDIA) that resulted in 20+ wickets falling in one day. If you don't blame that pitch for that result then it only means one thing that the players involved in that game were poor in batting and most of the same players from that game and that SA vs. AUS series were featured in this series between INDIA vs. AUS So, the 4-0 result in favor of india is obvious that none of those players were going to perform at the international level in INDIA. I would also like to repeat again...again...and again...that you can not be called an international player if you only perform on your own pitches. If you are good enough to be picked as an international player then you have to perform on all kinds of pitches and in all kinds of conditions. INDIAN MEDIA has to STOP being biaz toward their own team for winning and give team credit for performing well .

Posted by SLMaster on (March 27, 2013, 20:52 GMT)

What measures a pitch is bad or good? High run getting or pitch that helps to end the match within three days shouldn't be the KPI. It is just favorable one condition or side. However, a good pitch always provides balance. Both sides compete equally. ENG vs. NZ pitch was good. Even though NZ was on top they couldn't win. Pitch BD played was a good batting pitch. IND vs. AUS was a favorable pitch. But it still is a good pitch. Had AUS done their home it could have been a good pitch.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 20:39 GMT)

I'm extremely sorry sir, I disagree on your view. If all the matches last for five days and result on the final day, then its called movie and not cricket. Crickets nature in depth is unpredictability. As a great fan of cricket i do not agree with anyone blaming pitches instead of accepting the real fact "The players have failed the test".

I can say it in this way " Test match is a exam, Pitch is the question paper with 5 days duration, Players have to find the answer in the given duration." Its like First grade student blaming the question paper because he failed. LOL.

I never expected this kinda wrong articles in one of the best cricket website.

Posted by KK47 on (March 27, 2013, 19:17 GMT)

Now, it's getting boring to read comments about turners being termed as 'bad'. An up-and-down wicket also tests batsmen's concentration and patience, his ability to counter attack and battle it out like what Pujara and Siddle did. If you are including Jadeja into 'average bowler' category, would you even place Monty in the same category? They have similar strengths - accurate bowling with flat trajectory. Mumbai and Kotla gave them the ammunition and they utilized it fully. I actually prefer pitches like Kotla which does not favour the side winning the toss. It spun for the entire duration of the match and produced exciting cricket and a fair result. Akash, you have got it wrong this time.

Posted by cricfan65 on (March 27, 2013, 19:15 GMT)

The pitches in India have certainly changed since my youth ! I remember most Tests ending in boring 1 innings- a- side draws, so will definitely take these Kotla type pitches anytime ! Having said that, the problem remains that most batsmen are not exposed to all types of pitches on a regular basis, and fail to develop the appropriate techniques. Hence all these whitewashes

Posted by ccrriicc on (March 27, 2013, 18:36 GMT)

Dear Aakashji, Why did you write this article? Everything you say has been said a million times already. But I will refer you to Mr. Dhoni's remark: something like, "It is strategy to pick four fast bowlers but it is a bad pitch to if you pick three spinners"! If you do not have much to say don't. You usually write insightful articles, this one is better forgotten.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 18:18 GMT)

Aakash..I have usually enjoyed your articles and the though process you put in the buildup of your articles but agree and disagree on this count. Agree that pitch was turning square or had a variable bounce of 50cm as you mention, but isn't that the whole idea on playing international cricket? No professional in any field is of any value to the team or organization if all he can tackle are foreseeable hurdles. Whole fun of being part of any industry is the unknowns and if those are taken out, neither the spectators or the players can have any fun in their job. my 2 cents...

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 18:02 GMT)

Pathetic viewpoint the only good pitch in test cricket is one that results in at least 35 or more wickets ,as it ensures,that either the match is a close draw or a result. Dont you think taking wickets in Galle test was more due to batsmen's mistake then a bowlers skills because everyone got hammered.

Posted by Atish_G on (March 27, 2013, 17:25 GMT)

I am sorry, but if the Delhi pitch was so bad, how come the Australian tail batted so well on it ? Also, if variable bounce takes away the advantage of having good technique and familiarity with conditions, how come the Indian batters scored more runs ? Something is not logical here.

Posted by jhabib on (March 27, 2013, 17:03 GMT)

Interesting to see this article receiving so much flak from the Indians. I suspect that the same crowd would have been in vehement agreement with Mr. Chopra had the AUS v. IND results turned out different.

I however agree with Mr. Chopra's views. A bad pitch is simply that ... a bad pitch. No amount of technique or talent can counter that. Imagine batting on a pitch where a ball bowled at 130+ kph bounces sharply from a good length and the very next ball stays so low as to bounce twice before reaching the keeper ... or past the stumps for that matter.

That pitch provides no measure of the bowler's capability. Even a mediocre bowler can look legendary by simply depending on the pitch. Even great batsmen would be left clueless. The same on dust-bowls of India.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 16:35 GMT)

Science needs to come to the rescue. We have synthetic grass pitches and synthetic running tracks. A synthetic drop-in pitch is sorely needed for cricket, then any stadium in the world will be a first-class ground and the game can flourish in it's optimal conditions.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

Interesting to see the author talk about the Delhi pitch while not even mention the innings from pujara in the 4 th innings and by the standard that 1st day we had a 3rd day pitch he made almost run a ball 82 on a 5th day pitch. this article would have made a lot more sense if the author had taken time to address the pujara and peter siddle innings in the context of a so called bad pitch for test cricket.

Posted by ThyrSaadam on (March 27, 2013, 16:13 GMT)

@sudzz71 Couldnt agree with you more. You can only measure the type of pitch once both sides have played. The author infact mentions about the NZ test where both sides werent able to cross 200 in any of the innings, now that was a bad pitch. Whats really disapponting is that a green top / damp pitch is not considered a bad pitch while a track that support sppin movement on day 1 is ? Why not put some more effort and shave off the grass, or dry the pitch more? if rain is a good reason to keep pitches green then so is high temeperatures causing the pitch to bake!

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 16:12 GMT)

for you guys the ball spun from day 1 even with new ball on almost every pitch in india this series but in SA VS PAK series ball swung when new only and not day 4 or 5. they didnt have home advantage on day 4or5 but india had advantage all 5 days. every countries has right to make pitches that suit thier playing styles but not like india spinning from day 1 new ball but you never see ball swinging on day 5 even in england england too pitches that favours spin . in india team get advantage usually on day 3.5 n 4 n 5 and in england aus SA they get advantage on day 1 and new ball they tend to loose advantage on day 4 or 5 but in India vsAUS series inadia had advantage from day 1 if they were such good why they lost england on spinning pitches from day 1 i your so called ashwin was useless through the series and on same pitches he got Aus out

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 16:10 GMT)

I will agree with Aakash chopra as pitch plays a huge part of the test match.A true would expect the pitch to flat on the first two days and dry on the third day also he would expect the pitch to break on the 4th and 5th day.The perfect example is India v England at Chennai - Dec 11-15, 2008 where there was pure drama as the pitch favored both the batsman and bowler.

Posted by cricket-india on (March 27, 2013, 15:58 GMT)

gimme the delhi picth any day over the galle pitch; the only worst pitches are the ones that are so flat and devoid of life that there are thiousands of runs scored and very few wickets fall, the bowlers are left drained and the audiences are left running to the nearest T20 match venue. akashji, the delhi pitch wasn't bad; only the players didn't have the technique to bat on it. pitches like these produce the gems in test batting that we fondly recall to this day - graham thorpe in sri lanka, vvs vs south africa at ahmedabad, ...

Posted by sss_m19 on (March 27, 2013, 14:54 GMT)

I think this article is mainly to justify that Jadeja's fifer is a fluke as according to Aakash, Jadeja is not as good as Ojha..

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 14:49 GMT)

I do not agree with the author on most part of it. You never complain when the asian countries tour England and the ball is seaming like a cobra. We say that swing bowling is an art and playing swing bowling is all about footwork etc. Similarly when we see pitches in Australia or SA, we see the bouncing wickets, where even the build of the player comes into picture. All in all, every country wants to make pitches that can win matches for the home side. This is the only way, they can get crowds into the stadium and this is the only way, cricket will be alive. Imagine India were 0-3 in the series, how many people would you expect in the crowd compared to what we saw when India were leading. And this is not unique with India, this is everywhere.

Posted by samincolumbia on (March 27, 2013, 14:47 GMT)

Rahane got hit in the head because he is technically inept and have been feasting on flat ptiches and average bowlers. He is in the same mould as Jaffer was.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 14:39 GMT)

Poor article..If you want exciting tests then this is the way you get it...Does akash chopra want dull boring draws?? I will anyday prefer these kind of wickets where each ball is exciting cricket...If a batsman cannot last on this wicket then he is no fit to play..

Posted by ritearmover on (March 27, 2013, 13:44 GMT)

While I understand Aakash's perspective, I disagree with aspects of it. Would Pujara's 82 n.o. be considered a fluke in the Delhi match? I don't recall him giving a lot of chances to the Aussies. In my opinion, the exception does define the rule in this case.

The general talk in cricketing circles has been that unless pitches are blatantly flat pitches like the one at Galle, as long as the batsmen get to play their shots its a fair wicket. The general bias against bowlers doesn't make for exciting cricket either.

The key difference between limited overs and test cricket is the temperament of the players. A lot of batsmen have the technique to go after the bowling for a few overs and change the game. However nothing tests and demonstrates the temperament of a batsman like a challenging wicket in a test match.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 12:52 GMT)

Honestly, I am disappointed with this article from Akash Chopra. I am a huge fan of his writing and those are really educative and insightful too. Kotla pitch might be bad, but when you are playing a 4 match series, having 1 pitch favoring bowlers is not a bad thing. You dont want a stereotype of a pitch everywhere, that removes the fun and interest from the game. When India plays home series, there is no harm in having 1 pitch like Kotla along with other ones. I am not sure Kotla pitch was so bad, a No.9 scored 50 in both innings and that too a chanceless one and both teams scoring 250+ in 1st innings is not bad. Aussies failed in the 2nd innings, and that has been a pattern in all the 4 matches, blaming pitch does not help

Posted by S.Jagernath on (March 27, 2013, 12:51 GMT)

Almost all the pitches India play their test cricket on tend to be very exciting.Their tests in England,Australia,N.Z & S.A tend to be very green.Their home pitches tend to spin heavily 80% of the time,so thats possibly why people all around the world have a lot of interest in the Indian test team.The pitches produce recently excited me,it may have aided bowlers a lot but quality batsmen like Michael Clarke & Cheteshwar Pujara were very successful.Flat pitches like those produced in Sri Lanka regularly & those Australia produced against S.A recently create a boring series that gets forgotten easily.

Posted by sachkaan on (March 27, 2013, 12:38 GMT)

czzling - I have two posts. Please refer to point 5. I agree that pitches with variable bounce is not suitable for test cricket. However I am not on the same page when Aakash says that on the first day the pitch behaved like a 3rd day pitch. Many commentators also have the same view. This comes from their old notion of test match pitches. My point is if the pitch starts spinning from the first day, it just throws you a kind of challenge and you need to accept that. Its the beauty of test matches. Different pitches, different situation - altogether different challenge.

Posted by czzling on (March 27, 2013, 12:13 GMT)

To all those who disagreed with the author: " how would you feel if a ball on good length hits your head when you are expecting it around your belly? Like Hughes did"?? You will not want to play cricket on pitches where ball spits like cobra. No bowler would enjoy getting wickets i think too(unless he is desperate)...the dry pitches OF iNDIA/SL aNd the seaming pitches of australia,RSA ad england give enough test to the Batsmen. kotla , newzealad(2002-2003) , WI pitches(a few of them) and the cement pitches of subcontinent make cricket dangerous and dull respectively.

sachkaan, ' the author is talking about the consistency in bounce'. iN KOTLA, you didn't know what to expect.

Posted by VickGower on (March 27, 2013, 12:10 GMT)

Enough of this. Please let's not discredit the Indian teams performance by suggesting their victory was a fluke. India deserved the win. They fought hard and won the game through better performance. Delhi is a pitch on which Vijay and Pujara had an opening stand of 100+; in the next innings Kohli and Pujara put on 100+ with relative ease. Pujara might have scored a double ton on this pitch if the match had not got over. Let's not trivialize his performance. Was he ever in discomfort? There was a pretty predictable formula to be utilized here, and it was this: watch the ball, use your feet, and do NOT bat with a set formula. This was the most exciting test match of the whole series in my opinion.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 11:01 GMT)

I disagree with the author. I would classify cricket pitches like Tennis Courts like, Clay Court, Hard Court, Grass Court etc. Same thinking needs to be applied here. The picture of *Rahane* indicates he is vulnerable. It is not a good sign for him. That is the interpretation. The game is like **players are in casino**, **living dangerously** that is the message. Stop blaming pitches. Playing spin needs great skill, that is the message.

Posted by Yarms on (March 27, 2013, 10:06 GMT)

Akash - An article written by a batsmen! Bowlers bowl or roads most of their lives - as we all know this is a batsmans game. So what about green tops produced by England and Aus when we visited them - it was hard to distinguish the palying surface from the utfield. Lets not forget that india had three 50+ scores in the match to Australias 2.. both the 50+ scores for Aus waere by a bowler name Siddle ! just poor batting.. pujara did not have much of an issue!

Posted by Pinarsh255 on (March 27, 2013, 9:50 GMT)

While I agree that test match like at Galle are not pleasing to see, I disagree with the majority of the article. "Cricket is largely dominated by luck"--totally disagree with it. I think the luck factor reduces once you go to the longer format of the game. Luck plays the biggest role in T20 and least in test matches. Richie Benaud's famous line "Captaincy is 90% luck and 10% skill, but do not that your luck without that 10%", is about captaincy. I can take that, but cricket as a whole(batting, bowling, fielding) is largely dominated by luck, no way. As in swinging condition your ability counter the lateral movement is tested, in pitches like Delhi your patience, ability to counter the variation in length is tested. Pujara in 2nd innings made it look like as if he is batting on Galle track.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 9:27 GMT)

It's fine if the pitch spin but the wicket must not be under prepared. Like roled for and hour and on the first day the whole wicket turned to sand. Then you might as well gone to play cricket at the beach. The players of today are too used to playing on roads and thus do not develop their skills to play in tricky conditions. When the ball seams a little in SA and teams get roled out cheaply everyone complains about the wicket until the proteas goes in and scores 400plus. Wickets in Australia during the 90's and 2000's were not that dufficult as they prepared it for warnie and mcgrath was good enough to take wickets on those as well. The fact is the batsmen are just not good enough anymore. They don't want to be patient on a seaming wicket where leaving well is the order of play. AB, Amla and Kallis are doing well in all conditions because they addapt better than others. Tendulkar also do better than his team mates becuase of addaptability.

Posted by Cricketfan11111 on (March 27, 2013, 9:03 GMT)

Delhi match was the most exciting one of the series. Even some English fans were commenting that Ind v Aus in Delhi was more fun to watch than the third test between Eng and NZ on a flat pitch(except on the last day of course) . What an innings Pujara played in the fourth innings? If you have quick reflexes you can negotiate uneven bounce. Do you call Siddle lucky? He scored two half centuries in the match. Ashwin's final over to Siddle was so interesting. Intelligent Ashwin played mind games and Siddle was equal to the task and showed how quickly he could react, except for the final ball which was too wide for him to reach and was smartly stumped by Dhoni.

Posted by doosra_inventer on (March 27, 2013, 8:22 GMT)

No Doubt India has played v well through out the series even if the Kotla Pitch was suporting one the result would have been the same like it is now, But at least ppl would have got an interesting match to watch, Akash didn't take any credit off from indian team but pitches must be supportive,Look at the 3rd test bw Eng vs NZ it was treat to watch since it was a supportive wicket for 22 players involved.

Posted by sachkaan on (March 27, 2013, 8:14 GMT)

Part 2. 4. I quite agree with you that it should be fair bit of competition between bat and ball. If on a Perth bouncy pitch, a Pointing can score a beautiful century and indian batsman fail to do so you can point out that indian batters did not have the requisite skill to play on that kind of surface. Same goes for spinning pitches like Kotla. If Pujara can play a gem of an innings in the 4th innings, it cant be a pitch where test matches cant by played on. 5. I do agree that pitches with variable bounce are not suitable for test matches. 6. Another point I wanted to add about team selection. Teams chose their bowlers according to the pitch (say 3 pacer 1 spinner in australia and 2 each in india for example). They do not chose their batters in the same manner. Australia could have played Smith instead of Hughes from the first match itself as Smith is a better batsman in these conditions and could play Hughes in Ashes directly. Hope you read this comment and give your opinion.

Posted by sachkaan on (March 27, 2013, 8:09 GMT)

Hi Akash, Although I am a big fan of your analysis of cricket, I am not in full sync with you on this article. 1. What do ex-cricketers mean by day 3 pitch. Its just a convention they have been following all through their life. According to you guys, the pitch should have a little bit of swing for the first few days, they it should start spinning. Come on.. Why is it important for the pitch to behave like this? What is wrong with the pitches that spin from day 1?

2. When you have pitches (like perth) where you have bounce for the whole 5 days, its a pretty great pitch and one of the best places to play cricket. When it start spinning, its an undeveloped pitch.

3. As you pointed out test cricket is about technique and temperament. Lets say fast pitches test certain aspect of your temperament and spinning pitches test other aspects. Like grass courts and clay courts. Federer can not complain that clay courts does not behave properly and it gives an additional advantage to Nadal.

Posted by aryan-is-dravid-fan on (March 27, 2013, 7:39 GMT)

Anand Bharadwaj - you do realise that Watson and Tendulkar both havents scored a meaningful run in almost 2 years!! So, in their case, the pitch was no the problem. Siddle, on the other hand, played out of his skin and came up with plans and backed himself in difficult conditions, so hats off to him.

I agree with most posters, batsmen should have to face a challenge too that really ``tests`` their skills. It was a fun match to watch and did not help batsmen or tailenders inflate their averages. Pujara and Vijay survived on the pitch, just as Cook and Peitersen had survived and flourished on a difficult wicket in Mumbai.

Posted by raghav355 on (March 27, 2013, 7:33 GMT)

At a time when test cricket is 'fighting for survival', why is mr chopra so concerned with criticizing the pitch for a test match that was widely watched in the stadium and on television. Having said that, I would like to see the Kotla pitch as a supreme examination of the skills of the cricketers involved in the test match. The game is so heavily loaded in favour of the batsmen especially against the spinners, what with the shorter boundaries and the heavier bats. that it is refreshing to see the spinners enjoy an 'unfair' advantage for a change. Also, please note that be it Kanpur 2008 (against South Africa), Kotla 2013 (Australia) and Mumbai (2004 against Australia) on the one hand or for that matter India's New Zealand tour of 2003, the team with the greater experience and skill to handle the turning and the seaming ball respectively (India and New Zealand) came out tops. So I do not think how we can use the word 'lottery' here!!!

Posted by wambling_future on (March 27, 2013, 7:24 GMT)

I don't understand the rationale behind criticizing rank turners as opposed to green tops. When Aus/NZ/Pak all got out for 40 odd in South African green top no body cried about the pitches but if a team gets bowled out for 120 odd on turning tracks all hell breaks loose. Whether be a square turner or green top, both requires skill from the batsmen to survive as well as bowlers to take wickets. On the same track SA didn't get out for 40 odd and neither India got out for 120 odd. Their batsmen had the necessary skill to survive on those tracks and had bowlers with necessary skill to take wickets on such pitches. As a follower of the game for 20years now, I would rather prefer to see result oriented pitches than flat tracks irrespective of match getting over in 3 or 5 days. Plus we all cry about test matches being boring nowadays. Having different pitches in different countries bring variety to the game. That's good isn't it ?

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 7:16 GMT)

Completely disagree with aakash.there was nothing wrong in.the kotla pitch.that Hughes' thing was an one off incident,the pitch settled down nicely after that,didn't do much tricks.the fact that India was scoring at a rate more than 5 rpo in the 4th innings only points that the pitch was not that bad.its just that few of the players lacked the skill to play on a turning track.I don't think akash has seen the match

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 7:15 GMT)

Delhi pitches have become notorious. Even many IPL matches were low scoring ones. In the past 1 match was also abandoned because of the pitch. Hightime they relaid the whole surface.

Posted by JGuru on (March 27, 2013, 6:59 GMT)

While I agree with Aakash on Galle's wicket, I do not with the parallel's he drew with Kotla. Kotla's wicket to a great extent tested the skills of the batsmen. There was variable bounce alright but that is common in many other tracks too when it starts to wear. Also Pujara played gem of an innings and especially the second one was a true class. He never looked in any sort of discomfort whatsoever. While it could be argued that he was lucky to not to have gotten balls that rolled in front of him, I do not think he offered chances either. Steve Smith in his brief stay also showed lot of solidity in dealing with those hostile conditions. At hindsight, we should have pitches which offers more to bowlers than batsmen not just because it forces results somehow but purely because it tests batsmen prowess in a big way. It is true that not all batsmen could have handled Kotla track but it eventually separated the best from a group of better players and testified the special qualities in them

Posted by mukesh_LOVE.cricket on (March 27, 2013, 6:42 GMT)

no doubt delhi pitch was tough , but likes of pujara ( even peter siddle) showed that batting on it is not such an impossible task

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 5:58 GMT)

well written! Winning at pitches like the dustbowl Kotla is hardly any credit...at least a decent pitch should last for 4-5 days...inconsistent bounce ruins the game and make survival a matter of luck...that's why u see people like Siddle scoring 50s...they were luckier...not a matter of skill...that's why players like Tendulkar and Watson struggled...green pitches are also bad if they have inconsistent bounce...but normally that's not the case and batsmen's skills are called into question and not their Karma!

Posted by uday911 on (March 27, 2013, 5:39 GMT)

Would have been a mockery if the toss had rendered the game unfair. The ease with which India batted on Day 3 should set all records straight. Sorry Aakash, but I think you got it wrong there.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (March 27, 2013, 5:34 GMT)

Trust Akash never to shy away from the real perspective. Everyone praising Jadeja or Ashwin or Lyon for their bowling skills should wait for them to come across a "normal" cricketing surface to really know the extent of their skills. Having said that a fan of Test cricket like me will choose this Kotla surface any day over that disastrous pitch at Nagpur against England.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 4:36 GMT)

Didn't England just win a series here 2-1? Its obvious if you have the talent you can win in India on a dustbowl, A raging turner or a flat track. Its all about the mindset. Australia had lost even before the tour began. The team lacks any world class batsman except Clarke. They are like Pakistan in a lot of ways. Good bowling (though they are missing a quality spinner) but horrible batsman. The way they were hitting or trying to hit the ball was appalling.

Posted by BreakingNews on (March 27, 2013, 4:29 GMT)

Completely disagree with Aakash Chopra. Pitch in Delhi was perfect spinning track. Match lasted for only three days because the batsmen from Australia were incompetent and not because pitch was having any demons on it. Yes it was challenging the batsmen to show their age old skills of surviving on spinning tracks. If todays generation is not fully capable of batting on such beauties then its sorry state of affairs on the quality of batters around. As much swinging pitches should provide challenge the spinning pitches should also be treated the same ways.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 4:20 GMT)

i think when you see a flat pitch like that in galle and in new zealand and turning wickets like that in delhi , it evens out over a period of time....some day you will see some pitches in india giving you 600 and that in galle and new zealand giving you 200-300,so stop talking about non-sense things

Posted by satchander on (March 27, 2013, 4:20 GMT)

Disgree with Aakash. I think we need turners like this to make Test cricket more interesting. Going by Aakash's statement that the variable bounce makes it a difficult for batsmen I would say its still going to test both the teams equally and the batsmen having that extra skill to negotiate this variable bounce will always come on top. But I do agree that not all matches should be played on raging turners then we do not get to see pacers coming into play and also that will allow the Indian batsmen to only develop their skills against spinners but not against pacers. This will hamper their performances overseas where they need to play pace and swing. So lets not make raging turners for all the 4 or 5 matches in a series but do definitely throw may be one odd pitch like this to spice up a series especially a high profile one such as Ind-Aus.

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 4:11 GMT)

Aakash, I have been following your articles since you started writing and most of them are to the point and providing a great insight into cricketer's mind. But here, you have shown us a side of the cricketer who got scared when facing uncomfortable situation. What about the green wickets that are prepared in Eng/Aus for Indian/subcontinent batsmen ? What about the sticky wickets before we started covering the wickets and protecting batsmen ? Yes, we definitely would like to see a 5 day exciting test match; but we need not so flat pitches to see some result. And only on playing different kinds of pitches will we see some quality players come on. Right now we are all praising Vijay, Pujara and Dhawan. I would like to see them bat in S Africa and England.

Posted by amitgarg78 on (March 27, 2013, 4:11 GMT)

Aakash, Don't agree with you on your assessment on Delhi pitch and I don't say that because India won. I agree that almost no one wants to see the run fest like we are used to in the subcontinent, with games ending in batting draws; nothing in it for bowlers. We've had a few of them over the last 2 decades including the 952 SL scored against us. But, to challenge batsmen of both sides and then get result, that is the fundamental idea behind a sporting wicket. Whether its the fast bowlers challenging the batsmen or spinners should make no difference. If peter siddle and pujara could score 2 half centuries each through application and skill, then no point blaming the pitch for the result in 3 days. It had no demons. Players like Warner, Maxwell were just not willing to put their head down and apply themselves. There is a skill gap that got exposed just as the inability of subcontinental players to play genuine fast bowling or swing/seam is exposed in NZ, SA, Australia or England.

Posted by UnwedUnfed on (March 27, 2013, 4:10 GMT)

An article written purely from the batsman's point of view. The Kotla pitch was absolutely fine, and offered batsmen of true class the opportunity to shine. It made for a very good cricket match. The Band-SL game, on the other hand, was a travesty, and pitches like that should just never be allowed in any kind of cricket. The ideal pitch, for me, has a batting average of around 30 (+ or - 5).

Posted by   on (March 27, 2013, 4:04 GMT)

Spot on Aakash..I can see people celebrating the 4-0 win but to me it brings back memories of the 90's - when we used to have dust bowls and beat teams regularly at home.Then we would go outside the subcontinent , get a sound trashing and come back with our tail between our legs.Until and unless we go and compete abroad these victories are quite meaningless as this Australian team is THE WEAKEST EVER to tour India. And we always win at home for the past 30 years ..barring a few exceptions.

Posted by QuarterMILE on (March 27, 2013, 3:46 GMT)

C'mon Aakash, on the same pitch Pujara has showed his class..it was a two-natured pitch but not to the extent that it becomes impossible to bat on it..for the same reason the pitch has not been criticised almost at all by either team..on the first day everyone was predicting how mitchell johnson is going to break a few thumbs with is nasty deliveries but nothing of that sort happened..pitch making is not an exact science..ask former players and they would the first to admit that such pitches were common during their times..aussies simply lacked the will to fight it out..on the same pitch pujara scored twice half centuries, siddle scored twice half centuries..now plz don't say they were "lucky" both times..every game is luck+skill..that's the beauty of sport..in football so many times we see deserving teams losing the contest..aussies could easily have carried this game to post-lunch session 4th day if they had batted sensibly in the 2nd innings

Posted by Andrew73 on (March 27, 2013, 3:28 GMT)

Don't agree Mr Chopra - I'd rather watch 1 test on a pitch like Delhi than 100 on a road like Galle. We certainly wouldn't want every pitch to be a treacherous as Kotla, but it's fantastic to see them now & again. A match where every ball is a potential trap and 50 is a good score can be absolutely enthralling, and give truly class batsmen the chance to stand up above the crowd. In Australia we still hear about Bill Lawry in the ridge test at Lord's, and I'll never forget Steve Waugh's twin hundreds in 97 when Taylor chose to bat first on a minefield. In this match Pujara's two half centuries were worth 150 on a normal deck, and I'd hate to see us lose the chance to see innings like those in future. Tell the batsmen to dry their eyes - they get plenty of chances to make hay in good conditions.

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Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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