After a stirring final day's play in Mumbai during which 17 wickets fell, 14 of which were bagged by spinners from both sides, India captain MS Dhoni has asked for Test pitches across the country that will take the kind of turn witnessed today at the Wankhede right from day one. Such pitches, he said, could only ensure better quality contests and make the toss less relevant.
"What I would like to see [in Tests in India], played out on fifth-day wicket [in Mumbai]; I want the pitches to turn from the very first day," Dhoni said, expressing surprise at the ample turn and bounce offered on the final day. "It sets off a bit of panic in the opposition's dressing room and, at the same time, you [India] are under pressure to perform as well. That what makes it interesting."
In contrast to the first four days when 1153 runs were scored for the fall of 22 wickets, the final day's play witnessed the same ebb and flow all great Test matches became memorable for. A combination of expert spin bowling from Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin and senseless batting from West Indies' middle order resulted in a collapse in which eight wickets went down for just 53 runs. A target of 243 from a maximum of 64 overs was never out of reach for India, especially with Virender Sehwag in the ranks.
Sehwag, aided by three lives, set the tempo and by the time he departed India were in a comfortable position. However, with the pitch taking ample turn, Marlon Samuels bowled his off breaks in a marathon 25-over spell from the North Stand end, while Devendra Bishoo bowled tight lines from the Pavilion End, hardly giving any free hits. Subsequently, from a position of authority, India were forced to concede control to the visitors, who kept their wits intact all through. Off the final over, India needed three runs, West Indies two wickets. Eventually India got two runs off a fabulous Fidel Edwards over, in which he stuck to a straight line.
"Frankly, I really don't what happened [to the pitch]. It started to turn in the morning," Dhoni said. "Till yesterday, everything was fine. It was among the flattest of wickets. Something happened in the morning and it started to turn. Most people thought it will be a draw, but it turned into a close game."
On flat pitches, like the ones on offer in Delhi and Kolkata, and for the first four days at the Wankhede, a team that loses the toss cannot do much to run through the opposition, Dhoni said. "I think if you see the first three or four days [in Mumbai], losing the toss doesn't really help. I don't know when was the last time we played on a wicket that was really turning square [from day one].
"The last time [it came close to an outright turner] was when we played at CCI [Brabourne Stadium, against Sri Lanka in 2009]. Then it was turning, but that was in the morning session. There was bounce also for the spinners, but as the game progressed there was not much even there. I am hoping that we [Indian grounds] stick to our kind of wickets that turn from the first day, which doesn't make the toss very important."
Darren Sammy, West Indies' captain, said he was not as surprised by the different nature of the pitch today. "It did bounce and turn more than on all the previous four days, but it was nothing that we shouldn't have been able to handle," Sammy said.