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Daylight Robbery II

April 15, 2008

When Graeme Smith set forth for South Africa, some of the factors he would have considered would be the Indian team, partisan crowds, turning tracks and weather conditions. What they would not have imagined would be how they would be up against not just the Indian cricket team, but the entire machinery of the cricketing organization in India.

The last glaring instance was in 2004 when Ricky Ponting’s team decimated India in India in the first two test matches in Bangalore and Nagpur to conquer Steve Waugh’s “last frontier”. When the powers that be of Indian cricket found that the Aussie batsmen, especially the statuesque Mathew Hayden had come prepared to face cracking surfaces and sustained spin attacks, they exercised some of their enormous influence to ensure a surface in Mumbai that was as hard as butter left in the sun enabling the ordinary Murali Kartik to pick up his cheapest wickets to complete the formalities. The result was only symbolic since the Aussies had already won the series.

This time however, the BCCI managed to avert yet another home-series loss by its timely ‘intervention’. There were no pretenses toward preparing a surface. The surface was dusting before the first ball was bowled and it was a credit to Graeme Smith’s team for not refusing to play on a surface that was substandard for a school game, let alone test cricket. Those who believe that the sand pit at Kanpur was the ‘home advantage’ equivalent of a bouncy track at ‘The Wanderers’ know about as much cricket as Mike Tyson knows sportsmanship.

Pitch preparation is an art and a science, involving weeks of rolling layers of soil accompanied by regular watering to compact it into a surface that will offer enough reactive force to the cricket ball to enable it travel without absorbing too much of the force applied by the bowler. The grass primarily serves to hold the soil together and the amount of it showing above ground causes lateral deviation (seam movement because of irregularities in the surface and swing because of the humidity close to the surface caused by the evaporating moisture) Too much water, and the surface remains soft causing the seam to grip on the surface causing slow loopy bounce (referred to as tennis ball bounce). Too less, and there is nothing holding the surface together and the surface where the ball repeatedly pitches and the bowlers follow through disintegrates causing mostly ankle-high bounce with the odd one that takes off after hitting the edge of a crack. Thus, a fast green track is still true to bat on provided batsmen have the technique to counter the moving ball. But an under-prepared track like at Kanpur, makes batting a lottery with the odd ball taking off and the odd one keeping low. It is indeed ironic that the best curator of the series will probably lose his job for the fast belter at Ahmedabad.

One can only react in one way to Dhoni’s act of sending a thank you note accompanied by a cheque for Rs 10,000 to the curator of the Green Park; he should have sent him the entire amount won from the farce. Don’t be surprised if next time around, the street-smart, brash and flamboyant young captain of India will be sending similar tokens to hotel chefs for accounting for the fastest bowlers in the opposition with e. coli laden delicacies. Surely, the man-of-the-series can be a non-playing contributor!

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