Do turning tracks matter in Indian cricket?

Written by: Vineesh Krishnan
Published: Friday, November 5, 2004, 11:25 [IST]
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What is the point of making turning tracks when the opposition has planned in advance and is ready to pounce upon an opposition weakened by injuries and out of form players? India made to the enviable position of challengers to the mighty Australians not by playing on turning, slow tracks. They reached the finals of the World Cup without the help of turners.

And many in the Indian batting line-up like pitches were the ball comes on to the bat where they can play like a poem. They don't like meandering through slow pitches were the ball sings a lullaby as it comes.

If Indian batsmen are playing well, they don't mind fast tracks. And if they are out of form, Australians can snare them on any pitch as it was proved in the ongoing series.

Instead of trying to figure out what is going wrong, the pundits and the thinktank were busy discussing the Wankhede pitch prompting some newspapers to comment that the pitch is captaining India in the absence of Ganguly.

What made India the premiere challengers to Australian 'imperialism' in cricket was the mix of talent, grit and some active brains. After India's tour of Australia in 2003 Australians thought they playing against a bench of yoga masters with superhuman powers of concentration and mental strength. Then, India were firing from all cylinders and were not bothered about the pitches.

Cricket fans are not fools. If cricket is to prosper on a long-term basis in India, Indian cricket has to shed its obsession with turning tracks. If India win with the help of a turning track, will it have the same glitter and charm of a victory on a pitch favouring both teams on an equal basis.

It is said cricket is played more in the mind than on the field. Can one expect players who are already bogged down by endless discussions and controversies to perform? According to the laws of Aerodynamics, bumblebee cannot fly. But bumblebee does not know Aerodynamics. Therefore it flies. Ofcourse, cricketers cannot be like bumblebees, they have to know the nuances of the pitch. But too much bothering about the pitch is surely going to mess up the mind and that will lead to failure.

After the Nagpur Test, Rahul Dravid asked a very pertinent question. He asked if the curator of the Nagpur pitch will prepare a similar pitch for an Under-15 cricket tournament. Off course, Dravid is a batsman who can play on any kind of pitch. But he developed it through sheer determination and hard work. Not everybody can have these characteristics, which distinguish sporting heroes from countries like India, at the same level.

Naturally, some one who is groomed on slow pitches is most likely to find himself clueless on fast, seaming pitches outside the sub-continent. The players who form the sidekick section of the team have regularly found it difficult to contribute substantially on non sub-continental pitches. This was what happened with Indian team periodically, perhaps the exceptions being the present team and Kapil's Devils during the 80s.

No doubt, the present team is in a slump, but they will recover anytime. But, India is going to face real trouble when big guns will retire. Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid are almost the same age and will retire around the same time. Yuvraj and Kaif, supposed to be the inheritors of their legacy, have not found their feet yet. And to find replacements which will fill the gap left by these giants will be a gargantuan task.

If India are to be consistently successful in the international arena, they have to prepare world class pitches and provide world class training to not just 25 players on the top but from the very roots itself. The richest cricket Board in the world surely has the means to do that. It can put more money in cricket than the Government of India allocates in its budget for sports.

So rather than watering the fruits, Indian cricket has to be watered and nourished from the roots.

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