Indian off-break Harbhajan Singh has blasted makers of the Hyderabad pitch which offered no assistance to spinners and led to a draw in the second test between New Zealand and India. He added that India is making a name for itself in producing batsman-friendly pitches which are not challenging.
"These days foreign teams come to India secure in the knowledge that it is the best place to get runs," he told the Times of India. "Gary Kirsten told me that when he came to play a Test series in India, the best place to bat was as an opener, because once the spinners came on, batting became difficult. But now, every wicket has been re-laid and the black soil has made the wickets pretty firm. It just doesn't turn and the wicket plays well even on the final day."
He was sarcastically critical of the curator of Rajiv Gandhi Stadium at Hyderabad , saying he "deserves to be given the contract to build national highways".
Bhajji has been more successful with the bat than the ball in the series so far, which in a way defeats the purpose of his specialist off-spinner status. He has scored successive centuries, but has only had limited success with the ball, taking 6 wickets in all. In the last test, he put on a 105-run last-wicket stand with Sreesanth, a feat which he feels indicates just how flat the wicket is. "Even our No. 11 was playing like Sachin Tendulkar," he said. "So we should give all the credit to the groundsmen."
India's bowling attack faltered endlessly and was unable to take 20 Kiwi wickets in both the Tests so far. Captain Dhoni has echoed Bhajji concerns saying that the pitches have failed to produce results and added that teams would "have to play 10 days of cricket to get a result"
Even Kiwi batsman Ross Taylor had expressed hope before the start of the second test that there would be some help for the spinners and pacemen. But it was not to be with even the New Zealand bowling attack struggling to finish off the Indian innings.
Rain has hindered India's practice session at Nagpur ahead of the final and deciding Test. Heavy downpours washed out Thursday's practice. New Zealand however, completed their session before the inclement weather struck. But the forecast shows that clouds are likely to clear by Friday afternoon.
Harbhajan said flat pitches had become a recurring issue in Test series in India. "I can't remember the last time I bowled on a turning track where the ball spun and bounced," he said. "I think Kanpur was the last and we got the desired result against South Africa in 2008."
India will go into the Test at Nagpur bereft of the services of the premier fast bowler Zaheer Khan, who has been ruled out due to a groin strain. His absence will put extra pressure on Bhajji to get the breakthroughs. Even though, there has been talk that Bhajji is turning into an all-rounder, his bowling has come in for some sharp criticism."I think I have bowled well in the last two Tests," he said. "But the way our critics think, you bowl well only when you take wickets. When I took four wickets in the first innings in Hyderabad, I bowled well. But on the final day, when I took just one wicket, I was in the line of fire."
Bhajji says he hopes it will be a happy ending for India in the series, after so many days of toiling for a result. "Hopefully, Sachin Tendulkar will get his 50th Test hundred, I'll get another hundred and pick up 7 to 8 wickets and India will win."