India v Sri Lanka, tri-series final, Port-of-Spain July 11, 2013

Treachery in the Trinidad pitch

The pitch for the final league game between India and Sri Lanka offered lateral movement and extremely uneven bounce, making shot-making virtually impossible
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Fourteen wickets fell on the first day of the Ashes. Though the pitch was dry, the overcast conditions helped seam and swing bowling, and the movement in the air and off the surface encouraged the quick bowlers to run in hard, over after over. It made the batsmen watchful and the contest even. However, despite the assistance for the bowlers, if the batsmen made the right shot selection, there were runs on offer.

Shift focus to the pitch that was prepared, or rather left under prepared, in Trinidad for the last league game of the tri-series, between India and Sri Lanka. It had plenty for everyone, except the batsmen. Not only was there exaggerated movement off the surface, but the bounce was so uneven that it bordered on dangerous. And if you thought batting would get easier against the spinners, you'd be wrong, because the ball played tricks for Rangana Herath and Ravindra Jadeja too.

The pitches at Queen's Park Oval have a reputation for assisting spinners. They are usually slow and without much grass. However, the surfaces for this tri-series not only have a lot of grass but also some moisture beneath. In fact, there are claims that this could be one of the grassiest pitches in the world at the moment.

One could live with the grass if it was evenly cut but there are tufts of varying length spread unevenly among the brown patches. The theory is that the tufts are a result of an uneven surface underneath, which results in uneven bounce. There's been a lot of monsoonal rain and the waterlogging on the ground could have raised the level of underground water. While the pitch is always covered to keep its surface dry, the rise in the water table ensures the soil underneath remains moist. It has made batting a painful exercise.

Batting usually involves trust and some guesswork. The moment the eyes see the ball has been released, the mind processes information based on years of practice to gauge the line, length, movement off the pitch and the bounce. The batsman has to process several variables in a short span of time, less than a quarter of a second in case of a fast bowler.

The ability to process such information quickly and accurately separates good players from the rest. But even the best batsmen get fooled now and then, for sometimes he either makes a mistake or the ball behaves differently. And if the ball starts misbehaving regularly, it makes a mockery of batting.

During the game between India and Sri Lanka on Tuesday, not only did the ball dart around after pitching the bounce was also quite unpredictable. If the bowler can't tell which way the ball going, what chance does the batsman have?

A little discomfort and the occasional ball misbehaving shouldn't be a matter of concern but if it happens frequently, it affects a player's safety. However, the variable bounce from the same spot in Trinidad differed by more than a foot and a half, making it almost impossible to deal with.

Imagine preparing to play the ball around the thigh but ending up fending it off the shoulder. Breaking fingers, wrist or elbow was a real possibility. No matter how tight the batsman's technique was he wasn't equipped to stay out of harm's way. The lateral movement was enough to leave the batsmen completely befuddled. Even the bowlers weren't 100% sure about what the ball would do.

It hasn't rained on the eve of the final and I hope the curator shaves off a little bit of grass. It's never a pleasing sight if the balance between ball and bat does not exist.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY Jalz007 on | July 11, 2013, 5:58 GMT

    Very nice & comprehensive analysis by the author.....It's quite true that if the pitch mis-behaves like what we have seen, it's not a pleasant sight to watch batsmen playing and missing, getting hurt on elbows & shoulders. Hope the curator & match organisers have seen this & hopefully they will prepare a better sporting wickets in future!!!!

  • POSTED BY Rally_Windies on | July 11, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    Hey, History will show that the Queens Park Oval is a Bowlers wicket... Not a spinners paradise, but it will assist any bowler who can put the ball in the right places.

    Curtly Ambrose is no spin bowler, and QPO is one of his happiest hunting grounds ... The WI famously defended 140 odd runs vs England @ QPO when Ambrose took a 7for and demolished England for 45 runs ....

    and that was no isolated incident ...

    Fast Bowlers have had much success at QPO ...

    and note to all (trade secrete from a Trini) - you always declare just in time, for the opposition's innings to start at high tide .... or choose to bat or bowl 1st to make sure high tide in POS occurs during your opponent's innings ...

    POS is on the coast and below sea level.. At High tide, the pitch is a bowler's dream .....

  • POSTED BY jahrasta on | July 11, 2013, 16:55 GMT

    To add to my previous comment:

    The ability of class batsmen to produce on this pitch should indicate it is not as treacherous as you make it out to be. Watching Bravo and Simmons batting as well as the always classy Sanga as compared to batsmen who are simply not up to the task on playing on a pitch outside of India ( ie. not a flat surface )...I just observed that once a batsman is willing to apply himself he will make runs.

  • POSTED BY on | July 11, 2013, 11:14 GMT

    Dear nh00 .... Regarding Rohit and "you are as good as your last innings" don't you think he should've been dropped many times if the last innings was any benchmark ?? Try going through his performance a few months back. Besides that it is clear that he is there to cement his own place rather than play for the country ..Even when the Indian scored at a run rate of 6.22 against west indies (4th match of the series) Rohit's strike rate was 58.9 (3.6 runs /over in 78 balls). In the entire series his strike rate is 60 (3.6 runs / over). Were all the pitches unplayable? or is the aggregate the only parameter to judge a player? Don't u think a dismal strike rate of one player, playing as many as 5 overs (89 balls) in an innings of 50 overs, compel the other batsmen for faster scoring, making them vulnerable to committing mistakes ?? And if you notice, this is a routine in his performances. One need not be a monkey on the filed jumping at everything but Rohit's body language is pathetic !!!

  • POSTED BY aksss.shah on | July 11, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    People @arunpsm @camwow learn to digest the fact that this indian team have in them to win against anyone at any ground.You said india cant play in england...we came out champions of the champions trophy...this just proves the fact that india is an enforcing force in world cricket

  • POSTED BY KingOwl on | July 11, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    I don't mind the existing balance of wicket - let there be help to the bowlers. What I DON'T like is conditions changing drastically during the day. In one day cricket, both teams SHOULD get fairly similar conditions. Otherwise, it is mockery of the competition between the two teams. It ends up with the pitch being the winner! Playing on such pitches is basically a lottery. So, I hope the curators will try to even out the competition by preparing a pitch that is fair to both the side batting and fielding first.

  • POSTED BY on | July 11, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    People who are lamenting about India having to play on such wickets forget that the other team also plays on the same wicket :or do they on a separate pitch ?? As for Rohit Sharma, the guy is a perfect example of laziness: he walks lazily, fields lazily, bats lazily & one can go off to sleep watching him play! Nearly in all ODIs he has played recently the guy scores, particularly initially, as if he is playing a 10 day test match with run rate worse than in many test matches now a days. Indian cricketers are chosen "ONE OUT OF MAYBE EVERY 10 CRORE INDIANS" (Unless you are Dhoni's choice) & we have every right to expect them to be the best. Most cricket playing countries don't even have a total population of 10 Crore, nor are cricketers of any other nation paid as much as Indians (intl or IPL, ads n endorsements). Appreciating them by calling them a young team on the basis of a particular match is only an excuse, and excuses are a habit which the Indian team is so accustomed to.

  • POSTED BY nh00 on | July 11, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    given the timezone problem, i only got to watch the India innings. I dont understand why the majority seem to have an unreasonable bias against rohit sharma. Please consider the adage "you are only as good as your last innings". That apart, call me old fashioned, but it felt good to see a young man absolutely gutsing it out in clearly difficult conditions. i feel that's what defines a batsman. i agree it looked ugly, but it felt good to have an intl batsman grinding it out like that in the days of t20 riches. good on rohit. he may not be in the league steve waugh yet by any stretch of the imagination, but he's atleast trying to tread the right path. and this is coming from someone who was a lifelong mark waugh fan

  • POSTED BY on | July 11, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    I haven't seen or heard these kind of tantrum for every match 10 years ago. These days i always hear about pitch being 2 paced, and it gets easy for batting as the day goes on. Either quality of players has gone down. OR quality of ground staff has gone down.

  • POSTED BY cricketqatar on | July 11, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    Sir, dont blame to pitches..this is wicket suitabe for test cricket. Main problem is Rohit and chandimal do not know how to play bouncy wickets..!!

  • POSTED BY Jalz007 on | July 11, 2013, 5:58 GMT

    Very nice & comprehensive analysis by the author.....It's quite true that if the pitch mis-behaves like what we have seen, it's not a pleasant sight to watch batsmen playing and missing, getting hurt on elbows & shoulders. Hope the curator & match organisers have seen this & hopefully they will prepare a better sporting wickets in future!!!!

  • POSTED BY Rally_Windies on | July 11, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    Hey, History will show that the Queens Park Oval is a Bowlers wicket... Not a spinners paradise, but it will assist any bowler who can put the ball in the right places.

    Curtly Ambrose is no spin bowler, and QPO is one of his happiest hunting grounds ... The WI famously defended 140 odd runs vs England @ QPO when Ambrose took a 7for and demolished England for 45 runs ....

    and that was no isolated incident ...

    Fast Bowlers have had much success at QPO ...

    and note to all (trade secrete from a Trini) - you always declare just in time, for the opposition's innings to start at high tide .... or choose to bat or bowl 1st to make sure high tide in POS occurs during your opponent's innings ...

    POS is on the coast and below sea level.. At High tide, the pitch is a bowler's dream .....

  • POSTED BY jahrasta on | July 11, 2013, 16:55 GMT

    To add to my previous comment:

    The ability of class batsmen to produce on this pitch should indicate it is not as treacherous as you make it out to be. Watching Bravo and Simmons batting as well as the always classy Sanga as compared to batsmen who are simply not up to the task on playing on a pitch outside of India ( ie. not a flat surface )...I just observed that once a batsman is willing to apply himself he will make runs.

  • POSTED BY on | July 11, 2013, 11:14 GMT

    Dear nh00 .... Regarding Rohit and "you are as good as your last innings" don't you think he should've been dropped many times if the last innings was any benchmark ?? Try going through his performance a few months back. Besides that it is clear that he is there to cement his own place rather than play for the country ..Even when the Indian scored at a run rate of 6.22 against west indies (4th match of the series) Rohit's strike rate was 58.9 (3.6 runs /over in 78 balls). In the entire series his strike rate is 60 (3.6 runs / over). Were all the pitches unplayable? or is the aggregate the only parameter to judge a player? Don't u think a dismal strike rate of one player, playing as many as 5 overs (89 balls) in an innings of 50 overs, compel the other batsmen for faster scoring, making them vulnerable to committing mistakes ?? And if you notice, this is a routine in his performances. One need not be a monkey on the filed jumping at everything but Rohit's body language is pathetic !!!

  • POSTED BY aksss.shah on | July 11, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    People @arunpsm @camwow learn to digest the fact that this indian team have in them to win against anyone at any ground.You said india cant play in england...we came out champions of the champions trophy...this just proves the fact that india is an enforcing force in world cricket

  • POSTED BY KingOwl on | July 11, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    I don't mind the existing balance of wicket - let there be help to the bowlers. What I DON'T like is conditions changing drastically during the day. In one day cricket, both teams SHOULD get fairly similar conditions. Otherwise, it is mockery of the competition between the two teams. It ends up with the pitch being the winner! Playing on such pitches is basically a lottery. So, I hope the curators will try to even out the competition by preparing a pitch that is fair to both the side batting and fielding first.

  • POSTED BY on | July 11, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    People who are lamenting about India having to play on such wickets forget that the other team also plays on the same wicket :or do they on a separate pitch ?? As for Rohit Sharma, the guy is a perfect example of laziness: he walks lazily, fields lazily, bats lazily & one can go off to sleep watching him play! Nearly in all ODIs he has played recently the guy scores, particularly initially, as if he is playing a 10 day test match with run rate worse than in many test matches now a days. Indian cricketers are chosen "ONE OUT OF MAYBE EVERY 10 CRORE INDIANS" (Unless you are Dhoni's choice) & we have every right to expect them to be the best. Most cricket playing countries don't even have a total population of 10 Crore, nor are cricketers of any other nation paid as much as Indians (intl or IPL, ads n endorsements). Appreciating them by calling them a young team on the basis of a particular match is only an excuse, and excuses are a habit which the Indian team is so accustomed to.

  • POSTED BY nh00 on | July 11, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    given the timezone problem, i only got to watch the India innings. I dont understand why the majority seem to have an unreasonable bias against rohit sharma. Please consider the adage "you are only as good as your last innings". That apart, call me old fashioned, but it felt good to see a young man absolutely gutsing it out in clearly difficult conditions. i feel that's what defines a batsman. i agree it looked ugly, but it felt good to have an intl batsman grinding it out like that in the days of t20 riches. good on rohit. he may not be in the league steve waugh yet by any stretch of the imagination, but he's atleast trying to tread the right path. and this is coming from someone who was a lifelong mark waugh fan

  • POSTED BY on | July 11, 2013, 9:44 GMT

    I haven't seen or heard these kind of tantrum for every match 10 years ago. These days i always hear about pitch being 2 paced, and it gets easy for batting as the day goes on. Either quality of players has gone down. OR quality of ground staff has gone down.

  • POSTED BY cricketqatar on | July 11, 2013, 9:33 GMT

    Sir, dont blame to pitches..this is wicket suitabe for test cricket. Main problem is Rohit and chandimal do not know how to play bouncy wickets..!!

  • POSTED BY sl_a_min_no on | July 11, 2013, 9:27 GMT

    @camwow, right! maybe Ind batsmen need coaching from sl or english or australian batsmen who win *all* their ODIs irrespective of the pitch, because of their *quality* batsmen.

  • POSTED BY JamesPullen on | July 11, 2013, 9:13 GMT

    I don't believe there is anything more interesting than an India v Sri Lanka final. Regardless of the pitch or country which the game is played in I think that it will be a very heated contest as it has always been in the past. Both teams look fairly matched up coming into the final however despite being a Lankan fan personally I think that India have the edge. Having said that games are not won on paper ... This game will be a very enjoyable one nonetheless.

  • POSTED BY IntCricket on | July 11, 2013, 9:05 GMT

    it must be so difficult for india to be forced to play on pitches that aren't prepared with their exact desired attributes specified to the groundsman. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It must be so difficult for haters to digest the fact that a young Ind team is in yet another final despite playing on a pitch worse than the one served at the Ashes. Burn away haters, it is sweet to see yer envy

  • POSTED BY camwow on | July 11, 2013, 8:49 GMT

    it must be so difficult for india to be forced to play on pitches that aren't prepared with their exact desired attributes specified to the groundsman.

  • POSTED BY ospriet on | July 11, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    I'm all for watching a few batsmen get hit. Serves them right for not being bowlers!

  • POSTED BY visht20 on | July 11, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    @JohnnyRook and pitch_it_up: Agree with you. Point taken. Peace :)

  • POSTED BY pitch_it_up on | July 11, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    @ visht20: The author is not against bowler-friendly pitches. He is simply saying that underprepared pitches (i.e. uneven bounce) are not safe for batsmen. Pitches can have ample grass and provide excessive seam movement for the benefit of bowlers, but if the bounce is uneven, then your batsmen are in danger of getting injured, which is against the spirit of the game.

  • POSTED BY JohnnyRook on | July 11, 2013, 6:58 GMT

    @visht20. I am all for bowlers getting some perks in a game which is getting hoelessly batsman oriented. But I think the pitch shouldn't be dangerous. If the bounce is variable, it is fine but the ball jumping above shoulder from a good length is taking it to other extreme and should be avoided.

  • POSTED BY GRVJPR on | July 11, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    Oh dear, What can you say about these new Indian Authors. If pitches are flat and batsmen score runs these author say "It was not a true test, we will see him on grassy wet surface". Now we get the Grassy wet surface, now he says that India won because of that. It seems whenever India wins these authors can't digest it because they themselves lasted for 3 test match when playing for India on much better surfaces. I am speechless!

  • POSTED BY scottyg on | July 11, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    better this than another boring flat pitch offering nothing to the bowlers- batsmen usually get it easy, we should give the bowlers a chance

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | July 11, 2013, 6:40 GMT

    Players safety should come first. We all want it balanced between bowler and batsman. Some pitches are banned by ICC if they do not conform.Uneven underneath hidden by grass is going to hurt a batsman. Too flat is no good as well. ICC should have pitch inspections before games begin and insist on a minimum standard.

  • POSTED BY chokkashokka on | July 11, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    yet again the ICC is hell bent on holding tournaments in countries where it rains - to what end? All ICC tournaments should be held in the subcontinent where both the quality of the curators and the weather is unparalleled. There was no rain in any of the 2011 world cup matches. All these rain affected games are such an annoyance - England being the worst place to play and watch these tragedies to our beloved sport.

  • POSTED BY buntyj on | July 11, 2013, 6:21 GMT

    first day test pitches at trinidad have sometimes played like this and had something in them for medium pacers, but require extra effort as its not the normal wicket

  • POSTED BY visht20 on | July 11, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    Hi Aakash, I appreciate your analysis of the game and a fan of it but this article is completely biased towards the batsmen having an advantage in the game. We have already seen flat pitches where batsmen have thrashed bowlers like anything. So what if the pitch is uneven or as you say under prepared, that is where the advantage goes to the bowlers and it is the time for the batsman to show their real talent and international class. Which Rohit supposedly did on that pitch. To summarize, let the bowlers have fun at least for a day. Thanks.

  • POSTED BY visht20 on | July 11, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    Hi Aakash, I appreciate your analysis of the game and a fan of it but this article is completely biased towards the batsmen having an advantage in the game. We have already seen flat pitches where batsmen have thrashed bowlers like anything. So what if the pitch is uneven or as you say under prepared, that is where the advantage goes to the bowlers and it is the time for the batsman to show their real talent and international class. Which Rohit supposedly did on that pitch. To summarize, let the bowlers have fun at least for a day. Thanks.

  • POSTED BY buntyj on | July 11, 2013, 6:21 GMT

    first day test pitches at trinidad have sometimes played like this and had something in them for medium pacers, but require extra effort as its not the normal wicket

  • POSTED BY chokkashokka on | July 11, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    yet again the ICC is hell bent on holding tournaments in countries where it rains - to what end? All ICC tournaments should be held in the subcontinent where both the quality of the curators and the weather is unparalleled. There was no rain in any of the 2011 world cup matches. All these rain affected games are such an annoyance - England being the worst place to play and watch these tragedies to our beloved sport.

  • POSTED BY Naresh28 on | July 11, 2013, 6:40 GMT

    Players safety should come first. We all want it balanced between bowler and batsman. Some pitches are banned by ICC if they do not conform.Uneven underneath hidden by grass is going to hurt a batsman. Too flat is no good as well. ICC should have pitch inspections before games begin and insist on a minimum standard.

  • POSTED BY scottyg on | July 11, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    better this than another boring flat pitch offering nothing to the bowlers- batsmen usually get it easy, we should give the bowlers a chance

  • POSTED BY GRVJPR on | July 11, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    Oh dear, What can you say about these new Indian Authors. If pitches are flat and batsmen score runs these author say "It was not a true test, we will see him on grassy wet surface". Now we get the Grassy wet surface, now he says that India won because of that. It seems whenever India wins these authors can't digest it because they themselves lasted for 3 test match when playing for India on much better surfaces. I am speechless!

  • POSTED BY JohnnyRook on | July 11, 2013, 6:58 GMT

    @visht20. I am all for bowlers getting some perks in a game which is getting hoelessly batsman oriented. But I think the pitch shouldn't be dangerous. If the bounce is variable, it is fine but the ball jumping above shoulder from a good length is taking it to other extreme and should be avoided.

  • POSTED BY pitch_it_up on | July 11, 2013, 7:07 GMT

    @ visht20: The author is not against bowler-friendly pitches. He is simply saying that underprepared pitches (i.e. uneven bounce) are not safe for batsmen. Pitches can have ample grass and provide excessive seam movement for the benefit of bowlers, but if the bounce is uneven, then your batsmen are in danger of getting injured, which is against the spirit of the game.

  • POSTED BY visht20 on | July 11, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    @JohnnyRook and pitch_it_up: Agree with you. Point taken. Peace :)

  • POSTED BY ospriet on | July 11, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    I'm all for watching a few batsmen get hit. Serves them right for not being bowlers!