Ahmedabad: The first words that a belligerent captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni uttered on entering the press conference hall on Monday were: “I don’t even want to see this wicket.” He said he wants pitches that provide assistance to spinners from the very beginning of a match, opening the unending debate on what an ideal pitch should be like.
Those words — perhaps the strongest that Dhoni has ever used about pitches — were followed by some more extremely candid demands that the India skipper made after his team registered a nine-wicket win over England.
On the other hand, England captain Alastair Cook, who scored as superb 176, termed the pitch a “very good cricket wicket” and even admitted that it exceeded his expectations as it didn’t deteriorate.
Dhiraj Parsana, the chief curator of the Gujarat Cricket Association, who supervised the pitch preparation, was satisfied at achieving his target, which was to see the match last the distance.
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Dhoni’s words, coming just four days before the second Test starts in Mumbai on Friday, gave enough indication of what kind of surfaces he wants in the next three Tests, Kolkata and Nagpur being the other venues.
“There wasn’t enough turn and bounce for the spinners,” Dhoni said. “Hopefully, in the coming matches, we’ll see the wicket turn right from the start, or as soon as possible, so that the toss doesn’t become vital.” India won the toss here and posted 521 for eight, thanks to Cheteshwar Pujara’s 206 not out and Virender Sehwag’s 117.
When pointed out that if a pitch blatantly suits a team, the International Cricket Council’s match referee could censure the home Board, Dhoni remained unperturbed.
“I don’t think the match referee can question a pitch just because it’s turning. 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,” he reasoned.
“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.”
The Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium, which had earlier also come under the microscope in a Test match against South Africa in April 2008 when speedsters shot India out for 76 in the first innings on their way to winning the match by an innings and 90 runs. For the next match in Kanpur, a minefield of a pitch was prepared to suit the home spinners, and India won by eight wickets — and adding fuel to the fire. Dhoni just said Motera “was a good wicket initially”.
Parsana, a former India left-arm bowler, said he was happy at achieving his target.
“As a curator, my target was that the match lasted for five days. That was our aim when we prepared the pitch. In that respect, I’m happy that match entered the fifth day. And the pitch was not so bad either,” Parsana told MAIL TODAY.
The BCCI has been asking associations to prepare sporting pitches for both domestic and international matches.
But the policy has never been followed to the letter and spirit of the stated aim, with many associations blatantly defying the diktat. Some people point this defiance to the Board’s politics.