SA must rise above retribution when India next tour

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Delhi

CAN you hear that? It’s the sound of grass growing on SA’s pitches in anticipation of India’s next tour there.

At the Ferozeshah Kotla in Delhi, where India and SA will play the now redundant fourth test, there is nothing to be heard.

Groundstaff are awaiting instructions on what sort of surface they should prepare. And so, neither a drop of water nor a roller have apparently been applied. The match starts on Thursday …

The man who is due to tell the Kotla groundstaff what to do is the chairperson of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s pitch and grounds committee, Daljit Singh, who is also the groundsman in Mohali – where SA lost inside three days on a surface bespoke for spinners to run rampant.

Three days was also all the groundsman wrote at Jamtha, where an even more challenging pitch than Mohali’s condemned batsmen to another torrid time and helped India clinch the series on Friday.

With that went SA’s record of not having lost an away series since they August 2006. To relinquish that status in a fair fight would have been one thing. This was distinctly another.

“I haven’t played in conditions like these before in my life, so I suppose that’s a bit of a consolation,” Hashim Amla said.

“It was really challenging, and you never know, if we had had this before, what would have happened.

“But it is very disappointing to lose a series away from home after being part of it all for nine years.”

Singh is due to arrive in Delhi sometime this weekend. Given that 10 days are usually set aside for the preparation of a pitch meant to last five days, you would be forgiven for wondering why he has bothered to make the trip. But only if you forget that these pitches are meant to last not half as long as they should.

The most recent test at the Kotla, in 2013, was also over in three days with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinners Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja claiming 17 of Australia’s 20 wickets.

What to do about such an assault on the balance of test cricket? In county cricket next year, the toss will be dispensed with. Instead, the visiting captain will have the choice of fielding first.

It’s an idea that could have been borrowed from baseball, where the home team always bats last. But cricket won’t want to copy another baseball convention – if a pitched ball hits an opposing batter, the fielding side can be sure the favour will be returned when they next bat.

Let’s not go there. When next India tour SA, the pitches should be proper.

 

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