If 36 all out was the lowest of lows, Ajinkya Rahane’s Melbourne ton was gallant. If the Adelaide defeat was embarrassing, the Melbourne victory oozed character. If Sydney abused, India showed poise. And when Brisbane came calling, a ‘young’ India rose to hoist the tricolour at The Gabba.
Battered, bruised, abused, injured. There was no adversity that didn’t come India’s way. “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” If that famous statement ever needed an example, India’s tour of Australia can be bookmarked.
But it’s done. No, wait. ‘Conquered’, that’s the word. The final day of the Gabba decider was like 2011 World Cup won again. If Shubman Gill did a Gautam Gambhir at the top, Rishabh Pant’s finishing act was like MS Dhoni re-born.
But all that is in the past now, and the time is ripe to look ahead.
(Team India pose with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy – BCCI Photo)
On that road, ‘what next?’ won’t be enough of a question to ask. That question needs emphasis in the context of the history India created in Australia. So it would be more appropriate to ask – ‘what next to build on this high?’.
There’s no ammunition left for those who want to contest India’s bench strength. Gill, Pant, Washington Sundar, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan, Navdeep Saini have killed most debates around that.
But there’s always room for improvement. Injury management is one such area, but what’s humanly more controllable is the structure BCCI provides it cricketers domestically, and the infrastructure it lays down to hit the markers.
On that note, the most logical talk revolves around the grounds and pitches that the next-gen Indian cricketers play on.
The ignominy of the 36 all out in the Adelaide day-nighter has been erased. But a point must be made to not forget it and work on a plan to make sure such dark chapters are never written again.
(India were bowled out for their lowest Test innings total of 36 in the Adelaide Test – AP Photo)
The Adelaide track was by no means a snake-pit or a trampoline. The challenges instead were overseas assignment, Australian conditions, pink ball, day-night Test and the word ‘bounce’ in mind. That can make the situation complex and even a decent pitch appear like it has demons in it.
Ask an Indian rookie about playing in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries; and the first adjective used might be ‘bouncy’. The best way to address that mindset is while a cricketer grows.
So what can Indian cricket do going ahead in terms of grounds and pitches at home? One of the best people to answer that perhaps would be Daljit Singh, the former Chairman of BCCI’s Grounds and Pitches Committee. Singh worked with the BCCI in different capacities for 22 years, before retiring in 2019.
(Daljit Singh is credited for transforming cricket grounds and pitches in India – TOI Photo)
Timesofindia.com handed over the microphone to Singh for his thoughts.
BUILDING ON THE AUSTRALIA HIGH…
Daljit Singh: It’s time to give attention to four-day cricket…Any curator’s target should be to prepare a result-oriented wicket. To make such a wicket you need an approach.
ON THE BEST ‘APPROACH’ THAT CAN BE TAKEN IN DOMESTIC CRICKET…
Daljit Singh: Domestic cricket is ignored, it’s neglected for the last two years (excluding the year lost to the pandemic)…I think the BCCI has not paid much attention.
IS PITCH PREPARATION IN DOMESTIC CRICKET NOT BEING GIVEN IMPORTANCE?
Daljit Singh: The BCCI should pay attention to domestic cricket, prepare result-oriented pitches. Earlier there were seminars and courses for the curators and ground staff; they used to discuss things before a season.
I remember there used to be a workshop always in the first week of June and one in September before the season. But now everything is in cold storage. The Pitches Committee is not very active, not much importance is given to it.
A Test cricketer (Sourav Ganguly) is our (BCCI) president. It shouldn’t be difficult if somebody gives him advice.
(File image of the ground-staff working at the JSCA Stadium pitch in Ranchi – TOI Photo)
THE ROLE OF THE BCCI CURATORS…
Daljit Singh: Earlier during our Pitch Committee (tenure), the chairman used to post people to travel within their zone to Ranji Trophy two months before the start of the season. (They would) inspect the ground and pitch conditions, see how many pitches have been readied for the Ranji Trophy. (They would) advise to protect the tracks, to not play much on them (before the season begins), how much grass to cut.
All this was done before the season. (But now) They don’t travel much.
COULD PINK BALL BE THE REASON FOR THE 36 ALL OUT IN ADELAIDE?
Daljit Singh: (Pink ball and day-night Test) is psychological. If 36 all out happened in the first innings (of Adelaide Test), then we may have thought about that. It happened on the third day. Pink ball is a psychological change, though I can’t say from a distance how much of a change it makes, but it’s not alarming like you can’t watch the ball properly.
It was poor technique, lack of foot movement, no use of the crease. One or two players can have a bad day, get an edge as they play and miss, that happens. (But) they scored runs on the first day (in Adelaide) and before that had scored in the T20Is and ODIs as well. It (36 all out) was a combination of a bad day, poor technique and poor thinking.
You see, the ICC has to keep Test cricket alive. They have to bring things like pink ball and day-night Tests to keep the interest going. Like T20s (for innovation in limited-overs cricket), it is the pink ball (in Test cricket). The viewers’ interest is maintained.
Record-breaking India clinch Australia Test series in Gabba thriller
WHAT IS THE RIGHT APPROACH TOWARDS MAKING PITCHES IN INDIA?
Daljit Singh: The most difficult pitch to make anywhere is the four-day pitch. It needs moisture at the start, grass, assistance for fast bowlers. Then it should become batting-oriented, followed by gradual wear and tear to assist the spinners and then keeping high and low to produce a result.
There are a lot of good curators in India, trained curators. Their services should be used. (But) It won’t happen on its own. It will need involvement, time, honesty, guidelines. We have done this in the past.
You have to look at the total picture. Only four-day cricket will save you (help you build).
CAN WE LOOK AT USING DROP-IN PITCHES LIKE IN AUSTRALIA?
Daljit Singh: India is such a big country. How can we bring drop-in pitches for domestic cricket? There are innumerable matches, right from Trivandrum to Srinagar.
And look, what is India’s strength? Somewhere there is red pitch, somewhere blackish, somewhere mixed soil. The ball bounces at one place and keeps low at the other. That is the strength of Indian cricket.
We have to improve domestic cricket.