Flurry of wickets puts Moti Bagh pitch in spotlight

Thirty-five wickets have fallen at Moti Bagh Stadium in Vadodara in two days. That is, in six sessions of play. Importantly, 31 of those 35 wickets have been claimed by the spinners. No other match in this Ranji Trophy has seen so many wickets fall in so short a time. Madhya Pradesh have already lost five wickets, chasing an improbable 337 for victory against hosts Baroda. It is easy then to wonder if the Moti Bagh pitch is fair or unsporting. While the ground's curator and the visiting coach are not too fussed about the track, the BCCI seems to have taken note of the flurry of wickets, and an inspection is likely.

According to the groundsman, Vishvjeet Sinh Padhiyar, neither the umpires nor the match referee had shown any concern about the pitch. But Sanjay Patel, the BCCI secretary, who is from Baroda, while saying there was nothing alarming about the pitch, admitted that he had asked the board's ground and pitches committee to submit a report on it.

"The BCCI ground and pitches committee will write to the Baroda Cricket Association asking for a report for certain. The ball is turning too early," another senior board official said. "The BCCI directive has been to ask curator to prepare pitches where there should be gradual wear and tear. Such pitches need to be looked into by the ground and pitches committee."

Padhiyar, though, said the slew of wickets was because most of the batsmen from both sides played like "in the IPL". Padhiyar has been with Baroda for four years and he felt that the key to succeed was to stay at the crease. "The ball was taking turn. The bounce was good. Baroda made 244 in the second innings. [In contrast] Madhya Pradesh batsmen did not show the patience," he said.

To support his opinion on the pitch, Padhiyar pointed to the 72-run final-wicket partnership between Yusuf Pathan, who hit a century, and Baroda No. 11 Munaf Patel. He also cited the example of the match previous at the ground, where Railways got the better of Baroda by an innings and 48 runs. "Arindam Ghosh and Mahesh Rawat just stood resolute to play for one full day and barely score 150 runs, even when the ball was turning," Padhiyar said. Even Uttar Pradesh, who beat Baroda in their first home match, showed more patience, Padhiyar stressed.

Mukesh Sahni, Madhya Pradesh coach, said the pitch was turning and the bounce was occasionally uneven, but he did not blame the curator for his team's plight. Instead, he agreed with Padhiyar's remarks and put the onus on his batsmen, who he said committed unnecessary errors. "The wicket is not proper in terms of the spin it took straightaway from the first session but it is fine as both teams played on the same pitch," Sahni said. "We played bad shots."

One of the biggest hurdles for the BCCI's ground and pitches committee, which is headed by Daljit Singh, is a shortage of manpower. The BCCI reduced the committee's strength from 12 members to five, which, it is understood, is proving to be a restraint considering Daljit's panel has to monitor 108 group matches in this Ranji Trophy. It is learned that the West Zone member on the panel, Dhiraj Parsanna, will be asked to do an inspection of the Moti Bagh pitch.