Harbhajan Singh, India's most successful offspinner at the moment, has opposed the kind of surfaces the team has played on at home over the last 'four' years. He's stated as much in several interviews. He used the hash tag 'tailor-made conditions for spinners' while referring to the Indore surface. He went on to say his and Anil Kumble's wickets tally would have been "something else" if they had bowled more on such pitches. Virat Kohli, to whom the mention of the word 'pitch' is a red rag, was told of Harbhajan's comments after India had completed the whitewash of New Zealand inside four days in Indore.
Kohli was then asked if he attributed these wins to pitches or "something else". "Who made that statement?" Kohli shot back. "Harbhajan Singh," he was told. "Oh? Okay," he stopped.
It must be mentioned that while the conversation around pitches has been subdued this season because they haven't been as dramatic as they were against South Africa last season. Kolkata, in fact, was a seaming pitch, which brought the New Zealand fast bowlers into the game. However, Harbhajan's is the first instance of someone criticising the pitches from inside the system. He is an active cricketer who was a part of the India squad in the Asia Cup played in Bangladesh earlier this year. Kohli refrained from directly reacting to Harbhajan's statement although he did sound a little taken aback.
"Obviously, I mean," Kohli paused. "See even if it is a turning pitch you have to bowl well. There is no… spin doesn't happen only off the pitch. Spin is about how many revs you impart off the shoulder first. And then the ball will do something off the pitch. I quite clearly remember after we lost to New Zealand in the World T20, suddenly their spinners were quality and we were found out. I don't see anyone talking about that now. The same spinners have played. Why have they not been able to pick wickets? It is as simple as that. Our fast bowlers picked wickets everywhere. We never complained about anything. So… see you can give a guy a cement track to bat on. He [still] needs to have the mindset to score runs. It is as simple as that."
Earlier when asked about complete team performances on three different tracks and how much confidence that gives India for the England series, Kohli once spoke about the pitches. "Well, we knew before the series that people are going to start talking about pitches," Kohli said. "But we made it a point that we... we knew that there are monsoons everywhere, wickets are not going to be as dry. Especially in Kolkata, we knew that it wouldn't be dry; it was a newly laid wicket. We didn't say anything once. We believe in our abilities, we should be good enough to do it on any surface and against any team.
"That is a step in the right direction as far as our team is concerned. We believe in our skill much more, and not focus on creating atmosphere or conditions that might suit us partially. We just wanted to express ourselves the way we can on a cricket field. We finished two games in four days on perfectly fine Test cricket pitches. That gives us a lot of confidence."