CHENNAI: November arrived with Test cricket returning to India after two years. As fans, many of us couldn’t wait for it to get started. Who wouldn’t? A top-ranked South Africa taking on our boys who have been plying their trade — especially Tests — for over two years away from home. In that period Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay have turned into Mr Reliables and R Ashwin, since the start of the year, has looked like getting a wicket every time he comes to bowl. Most of all, Virat Kohli captaining the side for the first time at home!
Let alone fans, even in newsrooms, there was much anticipation. Four Tests. FOUR TESTS, you repeated, involving two teams who look equally good on paper. Exciting duels were drawn up. Steyn vs Vijay, Morkel vs Rahane, Tahir vs Kohli, Ashwin vs De Villiers, Jadeja vs Amla, Mishra vs Du Plessis. But three Tests later, with just seven days of cricket, the series is already India’s. On Friday, Ashwin’s seven wickets gave India its first series win against Proteas since 2004.
It is a huge feat to celebrate. But will we do so or talk about it — for the right reasons — 15 years down the line? Team Director Ravi Shastri compared this Gandhi-Mandela series to the India-Australia series of 2001. But history might not celebrate? “This is a victory of the pitch!” is how 27-year-old Varun Krishnan put it!
He wasn’t the only one trying to play down the achievement. “One good bowling performance can bowl a team to 79 all out. But throughout this series there has been exceptional bowling performances, which in hindsight makes me think, even I could have got wickets,” laments N Muralidharan, a mechanical engineer. There are million others on Twitter who have ridiculed the tracks.
Make no mistake, Ashwin, in the kind of form he is in wouldn’t have required pitches like Nagpur to win Tests. Irrespective of the team management’s argument of ‘whats wrong in playing on spinning tracks,’ the pitches he has bowled will also be mentioned in the future. “I’m happy with the result, but would have been happier if it didn’t come on pitches like this. Ashwin is bowling like poetry in motion and he doesn’t need pitches like these to pick wickets. It kind of undermines the result, despite a stellar show from the bowlers. Let’s not have wickets that take turn from Day 1. It kills the contest,” opined former India spinner Maninder Singh.
Former India captain Bishen Singh Bedi has this to say: “What are we achieving by playing on pitches like this. The team-management shouldn’t have a say in what kind of pitch they want!”