Spin Doctors at Play

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India pockets the home Test series against South Africa on tailor made spinning tracks. But how ethical is to ‘trap’ the visitors on ‘dusty’ under-prepared wickets? Different Truths’ sports correspondent, Kalpita Mukerji, writes on the recent Cricket controversy.

Dictionaries term a spin doctor as a person who publicises favorable interpretations of the words and actions of a public figure, especially a politician. But, when it comes to cricket, spin doctors are the ones who make use of spinning tracks to the hilt to win matches.

The recent Test series against the Proteas is a case where the ethics and sportsmanship of the home side was questioned as Indian spinners Ravichandra Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra worked in tandem to lay low the visiting South African team on wickets that turned and bounced from the very first ball.

India vs South Africa. at Nagpur
India vs South Africa. at Nagpur

It’s no secret that home teams prepare wickets to suit their bowlers. When India tours abroad, the pitches invariably are pace-friendly with fair bit of grass on them. Hence, the Indians are not wrong in paying the touring teams in the same way by getting wickets that help spinners.

But then, the question is to what extent a side can go to use this ‘home advantage’. It’s all right if the wicket starts turning from Day Three and starts testing the batsmen’s skills against the turning ball. Not from the very opening hour of the match on bone dry wickets.

It’s a universal concept that the first two days of a Test wicket is for the batsmen, and then the bowlers take over from the third/fourth days. But here, it was different as India romped home the four-match series 3-0 with the one at Bangalore being washed away after the opening days play.

They won the MohaJeff-Crowe-ICC-match-refereeli and Nagpur Tests within three days, and only the final Test in Delhi went the full distance with India winning after the tea interval on the fifth day. On way, the hosts stopped the successful touring spree of the Proteas, who hadn’t lost an away tour in a decade.

Though the visitors, led by the affable Hashim Amla didn’t complain much about the conditions, things weren’t liked by the match referee Jeff Crowe. The New Zealander gave a negative report for the Nagpur pitch and termed it as “bad”.

This must have come as a rap for the reputation of BCCI chief Shashank Manohar as Nagpur is his home centre.

After losing the One-day and T20 series, the Indians were desperate to knock-over the South Africans. They did so ultimately, but their tactics have stirred up a lot of debate.

Though, Indian skipper Virat Kohli, for who it was the maiden Test series triumph, brushed aside the debate by saying that: “If the two concerned teams (India and South Africa) don’t have a problem with spin-friendly wickets, there is no need to discuss it.”

But, then why did Indian team’s mentor Ravi Shastri made such a big issue about the Wankhede stadium wicket in Mumbai during the One-day match when the visitors posted a 400+ score to decimate the Indians and win the rubber. Now, the question is: Are we Indians a bad loser. World-over One-day wickets are tailor made for batting and when Suru Nayak, the curator at Wankhede stadium provided them a batting belter, why did Shastri go off the cuff. Did Shastri want a spinning track in the deciding match to win the series desperately, even at the cost of the paying public who comes to the ‘One-day fiesta’ to watch boundaries and sixes being hit.

At Nagpur, 20 wickets for 273 runs in a day is the worst ever performance on a Test wicket in India. As one columnist put it, “It’s like handcuffing the visitors on a spinning track and putting them to third degree till they give in.”

Critics from all over the world have criticised the tactics of the Indian team management’s decision. Former Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg has labeled the success of the Indian spinners to the doctored pitches. Though, Indian spinners R Ashwin and Amit Mishra defended the move by saying that the Australians too do the same by providing ‘green tops’ when they tour Down Under.

But then, the desperation of the Indians to go to any level in order to win didn’t go well with the cricket lovers. “It’s like putting the noose and tightening even before the verdict o the trial is out,” said a cricket lover. “This way, the already threatened Test cricket will lose its value and charm.”

Though the South Africans remain on top in the ICC Test Championship series, the rampaging Indians now move on to No. 2 position, leapfrogging second and third placed Australia and Pakistan.

Now India won’t be playing any Test matches till April 1, the cut off point for determining the annual rankings, the South Africans will have to at least draw their series against England and if they fail to do so they may lose the No. 1 spot to Australia (only if Australia win their three-Test home series 3-0).

Pix from Net

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