Posted by: tootingtrumpet | November 16, 2012

Read the flight and get on with the fight – don’t read the pitch and prod and twitch.

Ahmedabad’s groundsman at work yesterday – maybe.

I’ve written before about my skepticism about those who suck on a thoughtful tooth and pronounce about pitches (click here for a bit of a rant) , and they were out in force today for the First Test of the India vs England series. Everyone (that’s everysingleone) expects it to turn on Days Four and Five and most believe that such an eventuality can be brought about by a groundsman reaching for the “Eye of newt, and toe of frog, / Wool of bat, and tongue of dog”. Yep it’s a new pitch, yep it’s already going through the surface and yep the odd one has turned.  (Already!! The nerve!!!). But pitches are neither the product of witchcraft nor alchemy. Sod’s Law (literally) means that they seldom do what the doctoring ordered.

But it doesn’t matter. What does matter (oh so much more) is that this pitch is terribly slow, so bat speed gets more and more important as the match progresses. (Where’s Jonny?) It also matters that the greatest ally of the spinner has shown up, put its towel on the deckchair and is even now eyeing your gin and tonic making you uneasy about taking that swim in the welcoming pool. Variable bounce (for that is the spinner’s best friend) is in town and England’s batsmen will have noticed.

The sharply turning ball is not the one that has caused England’s batsmen so much heartache on the subcontinent. The ball spins so slowly from a finger-spinner on a pitch like this, that good – maybe even ordinary – batsmen should be able to deal with it, especially with the pads and non-DRSed up umpires as extra defences. England’s batsmen have struggled with slow bowling more than spin bowling, with the time before the ball bounces, rather than the time after. England quail at the kind of delivery that goes above the eyeline, gets a bit of dip or drift with the revs and, insouciantly, asks the question – “Forward or Back, Sir?” Witness Gautam Ghambir’s pitiful dismissal to Swanny – back and attacking to a ball to which he should have been forward and defending. “Are you Ian Bell in disguise” would have been the Barmies’ chant (if they’re there -are they?)

So less talk  about the pitch and more talk (and concentration) on those moments between the ball leaving the bowler’s hand and the batsman taking up his position to play the stroke is my plea. Maybe that was the genius behind Duncan Fletcher’s fabled forward press. Maybe it was a con trick. Maybe it did nothing except force the batsman to do something to get off balance (the trigger movement) which prompted movement to get back on balance as the ball was in flight. Unless you’re Virender Sehwag, any movement of the feet is better than no movement of the feet. Feet on the move beget the positive defensive stroke, the attacking cut or pull, even the little forces that rotate the strike. It also avoids the awful premeditated sweep, where the feet are anchored as the ball leaves the hand and the batsman is left to hope it’s not full and straight.

Then you just have to avoid the guzunder ball or the one that pops on to the glove, hits the helmet grille and has Yuvraj sending you off before he’s even caught the thing. Hard to do much about those when they’re drinking your G and T and adjusting their speedos. England must fight the flight for at least seven sessions in every Test if they are to get anything out of this series. A bit less bitch about the pitch from all parties would help – because it’s not the pitch that’s the problem.



  1. 482 runs in one day at Adelaide. If this was an Indian pitch, it would be criticised all over the English media and the ICC would be sending notes to gorundsmen. If Clarke was Indian, he would be called a flat-track bully.

    • Never judge a pitch until both sides have batted. And the English Media doesn’t have one voice – especially online.

    • Some one had to say this and you did. Kudos!

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