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Dust bowl politics

What is a competitive cricket pitch? That might appear like a rhetorical question, but there is a simple answer. It is one that encourages either a result or an exciting draw, but the result should not be so lopsided that it comes within two-three days. So would the three-and-a-half days that the second Test match between India and England lasted at the Chepauk in Chennai be considered a competitive match? Yes, it should. Former English captain Michael Vaughan however did make his feelings about the pitch known on Twitter and he was rightly pilloried for it, even by some of his former teammates. As Ravichandran Ashwin displayed with his free-flowing skills with the willow, players could master the conditions even though England’s spinners Moeen Ali and Jack Leash were not half as effective as Ashwin and debutant Axar Patel in bowling at the Indian batsmen. Or, were they? Frankly, other than a fabulous display by Mumbai star Rohit Sharma in the first innings and Ashwin himself in the second, the match might have been much, much closer. Little wonder then that many of the replies to Vaughan were that the conditions were the same for both sides.

However, there is a level of entitlement that some foreign teams feel when they come to play in India, an entitlement that Indian teams are not allowed to have when they travel abroad and have to face green-top surfaces that help the home team’s pacers and negate India’s spinners. The blade should cut both ways; a home team should be allowed to take advantage of their local knowledge and conditions when preparing a pitch. However, the surface, as we have said above, must be competitive so that just in case someone from the visiting team plays a blinder as several Indian players did in Australia, the results do not have to be fait accompli. There have been atrocious pitches prepared in the past, both in India and elsewhere, pitches that have done a disservice to the game of cricket by being so one-sided that one team had no chance but the Chennai pitch, despite the protestations of some Englishmen, was not one of them. India won the game fair and square, thanks to excellent play by some of their team members, setting up the next two games at the new Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad very well indeed. (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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