The Prime Ministers of India and Australia will witness the opening day of the fourth and final Test between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium on March 9. They seem to have chosen the right day as Test matches in the series have lasted so little time there was no guarantee there would be any play on the scheduled fourth and fifth days. Blame it on Team India’s pitch preparation playbook which insists upon deliberate under-preparing of the playing surface to such an extent that roles like a second opening bowler are virtually redundant.
Truth to tell, The Rahul Dravid-Rohit Sharma team management have taken host advantage to such extremes as to aim to be victorious at any cost, though the opponents can occasionally turn the tables as a brave Team Australia did in Indore.
A Test match pitch is meant to evolve over five days so as to bring out the skills of various types of cricketers who make up a playing XI — batsmen, bowlers of pace, trundlers and spinners. If curators are ordered to prepare a pitch in such a way as to allow only spinners to dominate, the cricket descends into a farcical test of skills. Even a batsman with 25,000 international runs behind him like Virat Kohli is batting as if he is afraid the very next ball could have his name on it.
Modern batsmen are so short on defensive techniques that Test matches hardly run the distance these days, be it on a green top like the one on which Australia trapped New Zealand at the ’Gabba or the dry and slow but vicious turners of variable bounce as in the three Tests in the Border-Gavaskar series.
Consider this — Star Sports paid Rs. 6,138 crore for Tests in a four-year cycle in India. In 19 Tests of that cycle so far, 10 have finished within three days, two on the second day, four on the 4th day and just three Tests have gone into a fifth day. Having lost 30 days of cricket in that cycle already, the broadcaster is actually paying money for jam.
Who is to tell that to Dravid? As a batsman, he may have wanted the best of batting surfaces but as coach is now willing to ‘cheat’ to derive an extreme home advantage. Test matches in this series are being played virtually on paddy fields, killing the spirit of cricket while affecting its commerce and taking spectators, viewers and live-streamers for a ride.