Gautam Gambhir has called for "rank turners" when teams visit India after India have lost seven consecutive away Tests on pitches that he reckons had lot of grass on them. He said the real test of a team was to win overseas, and that Indian curators shouldn't hesitate to make it as tough as possible for visiting teams.
"We need to realise that when we go overseas every country prepares wickets to their own strengths," Gambhir said. "So once the other teams come home we need to prepare tracks to our advantage as well. So there should not be a lot of talk when Australia or South Africa or England come home that we should not be preparing turners. I think we should be playing to our strengths, and if we can prepare rank turners, that's where their technique and their temperament will be tested."
Gambhir said there was a lot of movement available to seam bowlers in all of their seven defeats starting from the English summer onwards. "We have seen in last three Tests matches and even in England, there was a lot of grass and that helped their seamers," he said. "Once these people come to India we should not be hesitant in making turners, and that's where we would get to know whether they are mentally strong, and [what happens to] the kind of chit chat do they do when we go overseas and they talk about our techniques.
"That's where they will be tested, and we'll see how good they are against spin bowling. So we shouldn't be hesitant in preparing turners to our advantage, and that has been our strength and if we can do that people should support us rather than saying we should not be preparing turners. We should always be preparing something which is to our advantage."
Gambhir was asked what progress he saw in Peter Siddle's bowling from the time he debuted against India in 2008-09 to now being the leader of the Australian bowling attack. "The only difference is the conditions," Gambhir said. "He made his debut in Mohali. He played really well in that Test series. It's [these are] his own conditions, it's his own backyard. The important thing is once you start doing well in subcontinent, that's when you are rated as a very good bowler.
"He has bowled really well in this series - no doubt about that - he has been their main bowler who has always taken wickets whenever he has got into his spell. The important thing is, how he bowls well in the subcontinent. Here he has bowled well, but let's see what he does in other conditions as well."
That didn't stop Gambhir from praising the Australian bowling unit, whose performance he rated higher than the English bowlers last summer. "When you see the results both have been at par," Gambhir said. "England had a lot of lateral movement, but over here a lot of credit goes to them [the Australian bowlers]. They had a very inexperienced attack. England have far more experience than the Australian fast bowlers. The way they have bowled in this series is tremendous.
"They have never let us off the hook, they have always kept us under pressure though they were playing with just three seamers and a spinner. They kept coming at us, which is important, because there are times in Test cricket where you can get easy runs, especially in middle sessions. A lot of credit has to go to them.
"Even in the middle sessions they kept hitting those areas, and never let us score freely. As we all know Indians are known to score runs freely. Most of our middle order has been boundary hitters. They never let us score those boundaries. Never gave us balls where we can score freely. Especially in that middle session."
COMMENT - A frustrated reaction
Gambhir's comments about the pitches seem to be a combination of many factors. At worst they could be indicative of the defensive attitude of a team that has lost seven away Tests in a row. They can easily be seen as an extension of the response of Ishant Sharma and Virat Kohli to sledging by Australian players about the Indian batsmen's technique and average. You would expect better from a team that wants to be the best in the world.
There also seems to be a lack of awareness that India's recent wins outside the subcontinent have all come on seaming tracks that make it easier for their bowlers to take 20 wickets. Also the pitches in Sydney and Perth were hardly the monsters they are being made out to be.
However, at such times, it is easy to miss the deep-rooted frustration at the kind of pitches the Indian curators have been rolling out over the recent years: slow, low, devoid of life and excitement. The last time India actually got a pitch that turned and bounced was in Kanpur in 2007-08. Otherwise the pitches in India are all designed to last the longest possible distance. Gambhir is also understandably annoyed at how easily the turning tracks are labelled "disgraceful" by the media and the ICC. Sidharth Monga