On the eve of the final Test against England at the Narendra Modi Stadium here, with India having scored two successive comprehensive wins, captain Virat Kohli defended the Motera pitch against criticism that it was tailor-made for spin.
India had won the last Test within two days, triggering anew the debate over home teams altering conditions to get unfair advantage.
“There’s always too much noise and too much conversation about spinning tracks. I’m sure that if our media is in a space to contradict those views or present views that say that it is unfair to criticise only spinning tracks, then I think it’ll be a balanced conversation,” Kohli said, noting that, in contrast, there was lack of chatter around games that end prematurely on seaming surfaces.
Kohli went on to refer to the two Tests in India’s tour of New Zealand last year that had ended on the third day, with India losing by 10 and seven wickets respectively. No batsman from either side had scored a hundred while three spinners had managed a collective haul of five wickets on surfaces that seamed, swung and bounced.
“It was all about how India played badly in New Zealand. And none of the pitches were criticised. No one came and saw how much the pitch was doing (seaming), how much the ball was moving, and how much grass was there on the pitches,” he said.
Kohli added that, at the time, neither he nor the team management had blamed their failures on the pitches. “The reason behind our success as a team is that we haven’t cribbed about any surface we have played on. We have always tried to improve.”
Asked whether cricket boards should ensure that pitches don’t provide undue home advantage, Kohli said, “It would be lovely if you asked us this question on an England, New Zealand, Australia tour, not when you have seen two turning pitches in India. So to me that question is irrelevant at this point of time.”
He also rubbished the argument that pitches ensure a match lasts the full five days. “Do you play the game to win it or to make sure it goes to five days and there is entertainment?” the Indian captain said.
Kohli repeated what he said at the end of the last match, that rather than debating the nature of the pitch, the focus should be on the technique and temperament of batsmen, and why they were unable to deal with different conditions, be it swing, seam, bounce or turn. “Why don’t we just focus on the fact that the batsmen were just not skilled enough on that pitch to play properly, and it was a bizarre display of batting by both teams in a Test match,” he said.
The batsmen on both sides appeared to especially lack a concrete game plan to counter the skidding balls, the most difficult on a turning track. “I think there is requirement of skill in playing on spinning tracks, and not necessarily just playing the sweep. You find your own method, and from my point of view, my best solution is a defensive shot, where I know I can defend and it won’t go to silly point or short leg,” Kohli said.
“Defence is imperative. Because of the influence of white-ball cricket, Test cricket is witnessing consistent results, but it is just a by-product in reference to batting that the defence part of batting is being compromised.”
Leading the series against England 2-1, India needs just a draw to make it to the final of the World Test Championship later this year.