After Delhi Capitals lost to Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday night, even as presentations and handshakes and selfies and interviews went on, Capitals' consultant Sourav Ganguly took the head groundsman of Feroz Shah Kotla to the match pitch. An animated conversation went on for 10 minutes or so. Hands were pointed towards the practice nets repeatedly, and also to the pitch and the square.
This was Capitals' third defeat in five games, two of them in three home matches. In a highly competitive league where teams look to maximise home advantage, Capitals have had to deal with a slow turner against sides whose strength is spin: Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers. Their coach Ricky Ponting was at pains to emphasise his batsmen should be doing better and reading conditions much better, but he was also bemused at the surfaces his side has been getting.
After game one - the defeat to Super Kings where they couldn't get to 150 - Ponting said they would have to bat smartly because their home surfaces were now going to low and slow. Then in the next game both sides pushed 200, and Capitals won in the Super Over. The pitch was back to type in the third game.
Asked if he was disappointed with "home" conditions, Ponting said: "At the end of the day, it's the same pitch for both teams. But if you would have asked me, would I have wanted to play the Sunrisers on that type of pitch, there's no [more] polar opposite wicket that you want to play the Sunrisers on. That absolutely suits them to the end of the ground. They've got spinners, and all their seamers all bowl slower balls. On that wicket when you bowl slower balls it's not even possible [to hit big].
"If the wicket's going to keep being like that here, we need to think about selections in our team as well, because maybe our bowlers weren't best suited to the wicket today. But as I said, it wasn't expected. It wasn't what the groundsman told us was going to be so we were all surprised as anybody else."
Ponting said they were told to expect the best of the pitches so far in Delhi. "I thought they bowled smartly on that wicket," Ponting said giving credit to the Sunrisers bowlers. "I think it's fair to say that that wicket surprised us a lot. Talking to the groundsman before that game, he expected it to be the best pitch out of the three wickets so far. By far and away, it was the worst. You saw how little it bounced and how slow it was. I thought their bowlers adapted to the conditions really well. They have got very skilful bowler in those conditions."
Having said that, Ponting said the onus was on them to find a way because neither the home ground nor the square can be changed. "This is our home ground," Ponting said. "We need to learn how to play in these conditions better than the opposition, and in two of the three games so far, the opposition has played these conditions better than us so we definitely have to improve there."
Ponting was also left disappointed by his batsmen. It started with a Prithvi Shaw slog to an offcutter from Bhuvneshwar Kumar that left his off stump flattened. "I don't think Prithvi Shaw played a great shot, considering how low the ball was bouncing," Ponting said. "To try to hit across the line early on wasn't a great shot. Some of our senior players probably didn't bat long enough into the innings as well, to let us post a total that was going to be defendable. I mean, 130 was sort of short of what we were expecting. Even on a slow wicket, we expected our batting group to be able to get 160-165 on any surface when we bat first, and obviously, today we came a long way short. We need to talk about that. We need to find a way to get better there."
Ponting made it clear this performance was not acceptable. "I love the group of players that we've got here," Ponting said. "I love the youthful exuberance of some of those youngsters we've got and we've got a good mix of experience around them. We've got Shikhar and Morris and Ingram and these guys. We haven't got a completely young team by any stretch of the imagination. Even Rishabh and Shreyas have played four or five or six seasons of IPL themselves. They're not inexperienced players.
"But we all have to play better. It's as simple as that. As a coach, I can't accept a performance like that tonight. For a batting group as good as ours, to be able to get a 129, that's not acceptable as far as I'm concerned as a coach. Our players have to accept that and we've got to find ways to get better next time."