Thinking Deva

#IndvsSA: Team Kohli's victory seems hollow at best

Is it in the spirit of the game to have a pitch where batsmen find it next to impossible to survive?

 |  Thinking Deva  |  3-minute read |   27-11-2015
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Another Test match in the bag. Another series win for Virat Kohli's team. And this has to be special, given it was accomplished against the top-ranked Test team in the world - South Africa. It is a cause for great celebration. It proves India's might at home. But do we hear a discordant note? What can those be? Surely, nobody would begrudge Kohli and his team the laurels!

But clearly, not everybody is happy. As much as Team India's victory was a cause for joy, people have had a thing or two to say against the playing surface. A Test match getting over in three days with bowlers running riot is not good advertisement for cricket, they said. Perhaps there is truth in the argument that the pitch could have been better. The best pitch is one that provides equal opportunities to all the participants to prove their mettle. It has something for the batsmen early on, and then as the match progresses, starts to offer good purchase for the bowlers. A pitch heavily loaded in favour of either the batsmen or the bowlers, or indeed one kind of bowlers, as in this match, can't be called a sporting wicket. The flip side of preparing a pitch with more than usual assistance for a set of players plying a particular trade is that even mediocre practitioners of that trade often end up looking world-beaters.

Yes the pitch was the same for both the teams. It is simply that the Indians made better use of the conditions than the South Africans. Yes, it was a vicious turner, but the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja just had more quality than Imran Tahir and Simon Harmer, and the Indian batsmen applied themselves a bit better than their rivals. In fact, for some time in South Africa's second innings, Hashim Amla and Faf Du Plessis, showed that the spiteful track could actually be negotiated.

But still, to have a pitch as the one in Jamtha, especially for an international match, is uncalled for. This reeks of an effort on the part of the Indians to win a Test match by hook or crook. This, I am afraid, is not a sign of a team at the top of its game. The best victory is one which is achieved inspite of the conditions. That is what made the legendary Australian teams under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting the champions that they were. Spin, seam or bounce, nothing could stop the Aussie juggernaut.

Whenever you stack the odds so much against your opposition, there is always a possibility of the opposition coming back at you and hitting you where it hurts the most. Can you blame then, the Proteas for preparing a green top at Durban in 1996, that saw the touring Indians singed by pace? Can you blame the Kiwis for preparing pace-friendly tracks in 2002 on which the Indians came a cropper? No country can perhaps be faulted more playing to its strengths. So if the Indians' strength is spin, they are well within their rights to prepare a track that assists spinners, but is it in the spirit of the game to have a pitch where batsmen find it next to impossible to survive? That way you are basically taking your opposition out of the equation even before the match. If you would have left something for your opposition to work with, there could still have been a fight.

Nobody wants a walkover, for that is hardly a victory. Celebrate Team Kohli's second Test series victory as you may, but would you still be smiling when India tours the Rainbow nation and is greeted with menacing green tops at Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg? Something to ponder!

Writer

Debdutta Bhattacharjee Debdutta Bhattacharjee @debduttab10

He is a journalist with DailyO

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