Indian pitches just ain’t cricket

I’m not here to make normative claims about how cricket should be played.

You know what, screw that, that’s exactly what I’m here to do.

There is some grand, glorious old-style cricket happening in the world right now, and it sure ain’t being played by the poms.

No, it’s being played right here in the greatest country on God’s green earth. And I’m not talking about Norway, which each day edges closer to its white winter fate. It already snowed a fair bit, with the white stuff covering up any natural beauty this country is famed for. Then it changed its mind. “Give the tourists another chance,” Norway’s gaia told itself (I’ll need to bone up on my Norse mythology at some point). Now it’s tooing and froing between pseudo-snow, rainy drudgery or some teasing sunshine (in -5 degrees). Make up your mind!

The cricket, meanwhile, of the glorious, as-it-was-meant-to-be variety is being played in damn Straya. Best country that ever was. What’s better is that Straya also happens to be winning, which makes good cricket even better. In fact, I might argue that it’s not cricket at all if Straya aren’t winning, but that’s a battle for another day.

Why does this particular brand of cricket happen to be so hopelessly, stupendously fantastic that it will receive no complaints from this scribe? It’s because it is being played on wickets that actually allow a cricket ball to bounce above knee height, wickets that reward bowlers of fast and slow varieties if they ply their trade well, and wickets that give batsmen opportunities to play shots that aren’t drives.

Meanwhile, the inventors of cricket, those Poms with all their poor dental health and odd tasting Weet-Bix and Vegemite, are having to superglue their bat to the ground so as not to be yorked (no pun on English town intended, chortle chortle) by half trackers served up by spinners who have been tonked in and out of the Indian side whenever they leave the shores of the Asian subcontinent. Hell, even Harbhajan is cleaning up between his arthritis treatments and assisted spongebaths.

Why does this grind my loin bones so much? Because it sucks, basically. This isn’t what cricket is about.

Real cricket is about the first two days of the Test in Adelaide. On the first day the bat utterly dominated the ball, and rendered the fearsome Saffa attack as useless as mammarial features on a male bovine creature, as my father quoth oft.

They scored at over five runs per over on that first day! In Test cricket? Are you daft?

It was aggressive, interesting and exciting batting.

On the second day said toothless tigers showed some steel and dismissed the rest of the Aussie bats for about 100 runs. Contest between bat and ball? You bet.

Meanwhile, in India, a total of 269.4 overs have been rolled over by trundlers sundry and all. Guess how many of those have been completed by bowlers who attempt to bowl over 100 kmph?

Forty nine. That’s right. 220.4 overs have been bowled by spinners. India opened up with two spinners, and selected Zaheer Khan, the man who last year against Australia resembled a horribly ageing crocodile struggling to devour steaks given to him by zoo handlers, as their lone pace ace. Sometimes you just gotta put a crocodile down.

Guess how many wickets these 49 overs yielded for quickies? One. The same number of times Rob Quiney has managed to get off the mark in three Test innings.

Jimmy Anderson got that wicket, early in the first innings of the match. I’m fairly sure the only reason this happened was that Gautam Gambhir, the man he dismissed, had gone without a strong coffee that morning and was half asleep upon receiving it.

Either that or Gambhir just felt sorry for Anderson, knowing that the rest of his five days would be spent hammering balls into the wicket in the hope of it getting to the keeper, but instead seeing a puff of dust and ‘Poof!’ “Not again,” thought Anderson. The ball had once more turned into a cup of tea that the batsman could take and drink from before whacking it to the fence, or handing it benignly to Giles the butler at silly mid on if he was feeling nice.

Meanwhile, in the city of churches (Straya style) there are six quickies all with a fighting chance of getting a pole, and spinners are rightfully being dispatched over the fence at will and falling victim to brutal jeers from parochial Aussie crowds. Imran Tahir was reported to have told his chihuaua that he doesn’t think they are in Lahore anymore.

To be fair, though, it’s no worse than poor old Bryce McGain got a few years back, and any Proteas fan would have done the same had the situation been reversed.

I’m sure the Poms would be loath to play two spinners in their Test side. In Indian conditions, however, where pitches have the pace of Benn Robinson carrying an ankle injury, what choice do they have? They even had to drag Monty Panesar out of Sydney Grade cricket to fill another tweaker’s spot. It will go down as a selection masterstroke, though, with Monty picking up a bundle of wickets, including a five-fa already in India’s second innings.

Here’s the problem. Cricket was designed so that there would be an even contest between bat and ball. Some of the roads they churn out at the MCG stretch this a little, but when a quickie is forced to bowl two metres outside off stump simply to prevent being hit for boundaries every ball, there’s a serious problem.

Simon Katich was once asked about his slow scoring rate in the second session of a day’s play in India. His response was something to the effect of:

“That’s a stupid question. Were you watching the game? They were bowling a metre outside off stump every ball. How am I supposed to score off that?”

The answer, of course, is that the reporter was not, in fact, watching the game at all. They were too busy googling Sachin Tendulker and making sure his name was still the top of the ‘most searched’ list on Cricinfo.

And I don’t blame the reporter either. Watching cricket on dead tracks is dead boring.

It’s time someone gave those Indian groundsmen an elixir of something; anything that would make cricket on the subcontinent resemble something close to what it is was supposed to be.

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Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair

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