There were no collective brain fades in the third Test. Maybe, because of the pitch tending to exhibit signs of a Sleeping Beauty no brain fades were possible even though Steve Smith stuck to the form book by inventing a way to get out to a ball pitched in the rough. He may be yet to watch videos of English batsmen like Graham Gooch who would stand with both feet together in front of the stumps if the ball is deliberately pitched outside the leg peg as part of a bowling strategy.
The soft ball phenomenon applied to both teams. The number of times the umpires had to snip hanging threads from the seam was indicative of how the scarred ball behaved on this ‘black’ rough of the raunchy Ranchi pitch. The playing surface has been an obsession this whole Oz series, but then you can’t expect anything less in innovative pitch preparation of the Indians who have made this a fine art since putting it across Michael Clarke’s side in 2014 with a Chepauk special with a smooth wicket-to-wicket runway and rough patches outside the line of the stumps.
The enormous patience of the batsmen who compiled big scores on making occupation of the crease their main theme may have tested the patience of spectators and viewers. But then this is hard Test cricket between the two top rated teams and the Ranchi crowd, rather used to the pyrotechnics of its favourite son M.S. Dhoni, could not expect it to be raining fours and sixes. This was possibly Test cricket at its dullest, even though the match woke up when India finally declared after the enormity of the Cheteswar Pujara effort of a double ton.
As the surface was probably designed to draw the fizz out of the quicks, we are now left with the roll of the dice at Dharamshala. The cool mountains of the Dalai city were also reflected in some way in the richer grass of the picturesque ground there and the ball used to bounce considerably in IPL games. But, don’t expect that after the national curator Daljit Singh has a ‘go’ at the grass with tweezers if necessary. Can’t give the Oz fast bowlers a reason to smile suddenly when the series is in the balance and a defeat for Team India would mean loss of face rather more than losing the series decider.
The temperatures may rise in cool Dharamsala once the cricket gets underway as this is one series in which the verbal bouncers have far exceeded those seen on the field. If the pitches have been on the slow side, the sledgehammer has been somewhat quicker and the theatricals colourful, if you like mime that is. Mocking each other in mime has not been the most attractive part of the series. Too much of it has been school boyish and not humorous enough to rate as nice ripostes like we used to hear of in the old days. No one in the contest is a lily-livered poltroon and hence the language may have been getting coarser than before. This business of sledging seems to act both ways these days, which is an improvement over the old ‘Aussie Rules’ by which they only gave and never took back.
If the ICC match referee tended to take all that with a wink and a nod and suddenly wake up only when an Asian misbehaves, we put it down to their lack of maturity in not accepting that the colonies are all free now and the bread is buttered better on this side of the toast. But best to leave all that alone while all of us sit back to enjoy another good contest between bat and ball.