The first Test match at the world’s largest cricket stadium was sewn up by India early into the final session of the second day, triggering contrasting reactions in the cricketing world. On one side of the debate stood England’s former players and fans who slammed the pitch and even the Indian commentators. On the other side were those who felt the pitch was challenging but the extremity of the scoreboard was down to poor batting techniques and an iffy mindset. And then there were some who were left scratching their heads: which was worse – the batting or the pitch?
Graeme Swann, former England spinner and a commentator now, said while the pitch was challenging, England’s batting left a lot to be desired. “If England batsmen are honest with themselves and don’t blame the pitch or the third umpire, at least nine to ten dismissals shouldn’t have got Test batsmen out,” he told in a post-match discussion on Star Sports.
In the post-match interaction with the media, Root refused to say whether ICC should dock points for the pitch. “I’m paid to play the game not make those decisions. It’s something that I’m sure they’ll look at off the back of the last couple of matches, and I’m sure they’ll look at other wickets around the world at different times and maybe answer similar questions.
It’s certainly been two challenging surfaces in the last two games but as players you’ve just got to try to play what’s there for you,” Root said. When the same question was pressed again, Root said, “The decision is there for the ICC to make but as players, you want to compete against the best in whatever conditions they are. But, you know, there’s got to be a contest there.”
Sunil Gavaskar felt that the England batsmen’s woes were down to the “mindset” and suggested both teams should use their feet more. “You have to advance down the track. Use your feet. Also, be prepared to go right back. In turners, you have to move both ways.” Gavaskar was reluctant to lay the blame on the pitch and his commentary irked some of the former England players.
Chris Tremlett, former England pacer, called it “talking junk”. Tempers frayed on a day when a Test ended within two days for just the second time in India, and the 22nd time in the history of this game. Michael Vaughan, former England captain, called the pitch “shite” and “awful” on Twitter.
The Indian players were understandably not critical of the pitch. “I don’t think the quality of batting was at all up to standard from both teams to be honest. They were bundled out, and lack of application from both sides. The ball was coming on nicely yesterday and the odd ball was turning. The batting was below par from both sides. It was bizarre that out of 30 wickets, 21 was to straight balls. It was down to a lapse of concentration or playing for turn and (getting beaten) beating on the inside,” Virat Kohli said at the post-match presentation.
The Indian batsmen, save Rohit, didn’t fare much better, losing eight wickets for 36 runs in their first innings. Rohit, however, put it down to “one bad game” for the batsmen and cited the second Test in Chennai to drive home his point; Indian batsmen scoring runs on a pitch where the ball did “a lot more”.
Some of the damage was down to the pink ball. The extra lacquer on it helped the pace off the track, getting the ball to skid on quicker than the batsmen had anticipated. Root said as much at the post-match presentation. “I’d say one element was the ball – the plastic coating there gathers pace off the wicket – to be brutally honest. Both sides struggled with that throughout the game.”
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