‘Poor’ pitch taints India’s triumph

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Delhi

INDIA’S victory over SA in the third test in Nagpur was officially tainted on Tuesday when the Jamtha pitch used in the match was damned as “poor”.

That rating, which was based on the pitch and outfield report submitted to the International Cricket Council (ICC) by match referee Jeff Crowe, will take some of the sting out of SA’s 124-run loss.

But it is too little and comes too late to spare SA their first defeat in the 15 away test series they have played since August 2006 – a fact that now reeks of unfairness.

The ball turned immediately spin was introduced in the ninth over, and overtly challenging variations in bounce and pace also became factors. Batsmen were seen removing earth from their spikes.

India were dismissed for 215 and 173 with SA bowled out for 79 – the lowest test total yet made against India and SA’s lowest since 1957 – and 185.

A match that could have seen 450 overs bowled and lasted for 30 hours was instead completed in 247.5 overs and just more than 17 hours. It ended 52 minutes after tea on the third day.

Murali Vijay’s 40 was the top score while the biggest stand was the 72 – scored at a painstaking 1.55 runs an over – shared by Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis.

According to the ICC Pitch Monitoring Process (PMP), a surface can be labelled poor “if any of the following criteria apply: the pitch offers excessive seam movement at any stage of the match, the pitch displays excessive unevenness of bounce for any bowler at any stage of the match, the pitch offers excessive assistance to spin bowlers, especially early in the match, the pitch displays little or no seam movement or turn at any stage in the match together with no significant bounce or carry, thereby depriving the bowlers of a fair contest between bat and ball”.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have 14 days to respond to the finding. They are entitled to appeal.

“After the BCCI has submitted its response, (the) ICC’s general manager (for) cricket, Geoff Allardice, and the ICC’s chief match referee, Ranjan Madugalle, will consider all the evidence, including studying video footage of the match, before reaching their decision on whether or not the pitch was poor and if so, whether a penalty should be imposed,” an ICC statement said.

That could make the Vidarbha Cricket Association, which runs Jamtha, liable for a warning and a fine of up to US$15 000 as well as what the PMP ominously refers to as “appropriate corrective action”.

After the match, India captain Virat Kohli railed against criticism of the pitch: “It doesn’t really matter. The fact is we’ve won the series. That is not going to change however many articles are written about the pitch, and however many articles are written about their batting and an undue advantage for our spinners.”

India team director Ravi Shastri was even less apologetic about the shoddy surface: “I would hope the one in Delhi (where the fourth test starts on Thursday) is absolutely the same – I have no qualms about it. To hell with the five days.”

SA captain Hashim Amla said he had not “played in conditions like these before in my life”, and seemed to take a swipe at the Indians when he said, “You want to lose honourably and you want to win honourably as well.”

The first test in Mohali was also decided inside three days. However, that pitch seems to have escaped Jamtha’s fate.

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