After India completed a hard-fought victory over England in Ahmedabad, MS Dhoni
was full of praise for his bowlers but not for the pitch that made it hard for them to force the win.
At the post-match presentation, he also appeared to have made a comment that could be construed as a veiled attack at the umpires. "They [the bowlers] had to work really hard," Dhoni said. "Not to forget we asked them to follow on, so at a stretch our spinners bowled close to 80 and 70 overs each. Fast bowlers bowled 40 overs. Umesh, I am not really sure how many he bowled. It was hard work for them. Especially if you are expected to take more than 10 wickets to get a team out."
India spinners had several good shouts for lbw turned down. Among others, they could have had both Alastair Cook and Matt Prior, the duo who went on to make the only sizeable contributions for England, but they were also fortunate to get Samit Patel lbw in both innings. Ironically, before Patel was given out in the first innings, he had survived what looked like a plumb lbw.
Dhoni was less subtle about the groundsmen, though. Indian captains haven't often enjoyed a good working relationship with their groundsmen. Dhoni had been a regular advocate of pitches with turn and bounce, but every now and then some curator or the other dishes up a benign track that helps the spinners only with the new ball.
Yet, considering what was an eventually comfortable win, Dhoni was asked at the press conference if he had found a perfect template for a pitch to beat England. It had after all neutered England's strength, their fast bowlers. However, Dhoni didn't let the eventual result sway his assessment of the pitch.
"I don't even want to see this wicket," he said. "There wasn't enough turn and bounce for the spinners… Hopefully in the coming matches we'll see the wicket turn, right from start, or as soon as possible so that the toss doesn't become vital."
Dhoni went on to add that groundsmen need not worry about the match referee's objection to such pitches. "I don't think the match referee can question a pitch just because it's turning," he said. "When the wicket seams right from the first delivery, nobody asks questions. What you don't want is ridges in the wicket and then one ball hits your head and next your toe. At times, in the subcontinent, on pitches like this, the toss becomes vital. The only way to take the toss out of the equation is to have pitches that turn right from the start. The game may end in three-and-a-half days, but both teams will have an equal opportunity to win the game."
Given all those odds and Alastair Cook's stellar effort, Dhoni was proud of the way his bowlers stuck to the task. "It was not so easy. I can tell you that," he said. "We were on the field for two, two-and-a-half days. The bowlers had to bowl very patiently. Ojha bowled close to 82 overs, Ashwin bowled 70 overs.
"As the game progressed the pitch got slower and slower. I don't think there was much turn for them. The odd ball turned, but there wasn't enough bounce for the edge to carry to the slip fielder. It was about keeping one or two deliveries out and you were set for the game. It was the last session on the second day and first session on the third day that really shifted the game in our favour."
Dhoni was particularly impressed with the contribution of the two fast bowlers. Zaheer Khan was skilful, and Umesh Yadav
quick on a surface that the England pacemen struggled to draw any assistance from. Both reversed the ball, too. "What was impressive was the fast bowlers getting six wickets," Dhoni said. "It was not an ideal track for fast bowlers to get wickets. Their contribution was as important as the spinners.
"The first innings was challenging for England as the ball was turning. After that the wicket slowed down and they got used to the pace. That's one of the main reasons why our bowlers had to battle really hard to get wickets in the second innings."
This is an updated story, including quotes given to TV and in the press conference