Venkatesh Prasad slams 'pathetic' Pune pitch
Moments after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra called off a match that produced 1443 runs for the loss of 13 wickets without a single first-innings being completed, the UP coach Venkatesh Prasad waged a scathing attack on the pitch. The track produced five centuries - including a triple-century - and all five turned out to be personal-best scores in first-class cricket. However, the most talked-about feature of the Group B tie at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune was the pitch.
All one had to do was to remind Prasad that he had said two evenings ago that he would be in a better position to comment on the wicket at the end of the match and what followed for the next four minutes was a monologue.
"It's a pathetic wicket for a four-day match. Why I am saying this is because there were close to 1500 runs scored and still nobody could get the first-innings lead," Prasad said. "The first innings itself didn't get completed. That shows the unsportiveness of this pitch. I have been hearing that there is a directive from the BCCI to prepare sporting wickets and if this is the case, I don't know what to say, honestly.
"If a similar thing happens in a knockout game, obviously the game will be extended by another day. Why should a player be penalised? As it is, there are a lot of injuries. And playing on such a wicket on the sixth day, especially in the knockouts when the first innings doesn't get completed, we are unnecessarily penalising a player and on top of that, the injuries are going to increase that much more.
"I think the people who should be penalised are the [host] associations. That's something which they need to bring in. That's when we can start preparing good tracks, no matter who you favour. This is basically just not cricket. When you are playing on this sort of a pitch, you are killing the game, killing the interest as far as the spectators are concerned, and it gives false confidence to the batsmen. On top of that, the bowlers start doubting their abilities by playing on this sort of a track. So it is not going to help anybody. It's not going to help the batsmen or the bowlers, and on top of that, the game itself."
Prasad wholeheartedly backed the UP captain Suresh Raina, who had criticised the wicket after the penultimate day's play. "I completely second what Raina has said as far as the pitch is concerned and this is exactly my point of view. We need to play on wickets like how the Ghaziabad pitch was. We knew that Delhi was playing with a full-strength team and they had the best of the bowlers, but still… the whole thing is about the mindset and that's where you create a winner. That's very important. I am extremely unhappy with the way this game has gone as far the pitch is concerned."
Prasad also expressed concern on how the batsmen's scores on such a track could end up overshadowing others who have scored less in difficult conditions. "By scoring triple-hundreds and stuff like that, they will straightaway claim places in the India A squad, the Duleep Trophy squad, that when the actual thing is that it's a belter of a track. That doesn't make any sense. Unnecessarily, scores like 300 here are putting pressure on those batsmen who are scoring 100s or 120s or 150s on really challenging tracks. He is going to lose his chance, that's the whole point. Just imagine those players who are playing on challenging tracks - whether seaming or a turning track - and gets a 150, this one is going to overshadow that. But nobody knows the exact worth of his knock."
Prasad then criticised Maharashtra's tactics of batting 35 minutes into the third day before declaring. "I am really unhappy with the unsportiveness of the [Maharashtra] side as well. They took their own sweet time to declare. It is just too difficult for me to understand. And if that is the mindset of the players, then I am sorry to say that they are not going to go anywhere from here."
Maharashtra's young captain, Rohit Motwani, however, defended his team's tactics. "Looking at the wicket, we knew we had to score more runs to be on the safer side. We came to bat on the third day to frustrate the opponent for fielding three days in a row. They came back very hard at us in scoring. We had to be patient and get their openers out after they got to a flying start," Motwani, who scored a career-best 147, said.
Motwani, however, agreed that the wicket fell short of acceptable standards. "We hope to get better pitches in the upcoming home games. It is a bit disappointing to score 700-plus runs and get just one point," he said. "This wicket is one of the flattest in India. Even after getting some early wickets [on the last day], we knew it would not be easy to get wickets at regular intervals. We would definitely want a wicket which is a seven-pointer. We would like to have a result-oriented wicket in our upcoming home matches."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo