40 wickets inside 8 sessions; Pune square raises questions

40 wickets inside 8 sessions; Pune square raises questions

MCA, Pune
MCA, Pune. (Photo Source: Twitter)

The Pune strip used for the first match between India and Australia is all over the news for the wrong reasons. This was not the kind of pitch local curator Pandurang Salgaoncar, a former quick who once infamously broke Sunil Gavaskar’s hand with his pace, had predicted. Salgaoncar was confident “ball will fly” on his strip, which Aussie captain Smith had outright written off and expected to turn square from Day 1.

Salgaoncar’s prediction was, however, bit out of place, as Pune has always produced flat decks, as Kedhar Jadhav’s Ranji stats would suggest. He consistently scores big for Maharashtra here. In last month’s India vs England ODI, both teams scored mammoth 350+. In a month’s time, it is quite unusual that the nature of the pitch has altered so drastically. Apparently, the square was not watered for the past week, which further contributed to the crumbling of the pitch.

This leads to speculation over Daljit Singh, BCCI’s chief curator’s role, in the sudden turnaround in the nature of the pitch. A BCCI’s official, who didn’t want to reveal his identity, having known Daljit for over a decade, was quoted in the media saying that Daljit had the fascination for leaving some grass on the track.

The question that arises now is in whose interest was a rank turner rolled out, as clearly the ploy has boomeranged. It’s difficult to predict if the Indian team management ordered for a rank turner at this point of time since both skipper Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble have said that they don’t demand a particular wicket from the curator.

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It should be admitted that the technique of the current crop of Indian batsmen is not water-tight opposed to their great predecessors. However, it won’t be a bad idea to recall the Mumbai Test a few years ago, when a certain Michael Clarke ran through the famed Indian line-up. Thanks to Murali Karthik’s heroics, India didn’t end up on the wrong side of a Test that concluded inside three days.

Questions are also being raised on why Daljit is being allowed to continue when he is nearing 80. With all the Lodha Panel’s recommendations and reforms taking place across the breadth of cricket administration, forcing the office bearers to quit at various age levels, a young chief curator should be appointed as well.

Of course, pitch making is an art and it can go wrong at times. The counter-argument of utilising the value of Daljit’s expertise cannot be a reason to put him at the helm, as the rules need to be same for everyone. The same expertise can be put into use by putting Daljit in a consultant’s role. This would certainly enable to bring forth the fresh blood.

“There is Tapash Chatterjee of Rajasthan, Ashish Bhowmick of Tripura and Ankit Datta of Delhi – the younger lot of curators. Why aren’t these youngsters being given more responsibility?” the BCCI official questioned. “And if one feels that Daljit doesn’t have a replacement, then one should question the innumerable workshop of curators that we have had over the years.”, added the BCCI official.

India losing the Test on a square turner exposes the vulnerability of the home team and they would not want to do that after a pretty successful home season. They cannot afford to repeat the poor show in their first Test as all the talks of Australia being under pressure against an Indian team rampaging in home conditions have been literally washed away in a day.

The pitches were not talked about until this match in the grand home season, as they didn’t drastically assist the batsmen or spinners until at least Day 3 of most matches. Indian victories didn’t seem quite assisted by the pitch so far, but the team’s technique and temperament has been found wanting against the inexperienced Aussie team, which was not rated good enough to be a threat to India.