Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner have picked up 13 wickets between them in the 3 matches they have played together. The spinners have formed an excellent pair, put their hands up, embraced the challenge and delivered when it mattered and, therefore, have helped New Zealand beat India, Australia and Pakistan to enter the semis of the World Twenty20, 2016. New Zealand has read the wickets well and has adapted really well.
No one expected the spinners to do such damage in this edition of the T20 World Cup. The turn and low bounce on India’s venues for their first 3 matches – have surprised players and experts alike.
Though there is no evidence yet that India had asked for these kinds of tracks, conventional wisdom suggests that the BCCI is behind it. It is a known fact that flat pitches suit India the most. Their superior spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh can still draw a lot out of turn from the flat pitches, the regulation Indian pitches. India completed a clean sweep on the flat pitches in Australia with the spinners playing an important role.
The curators are not allowed to speak to the press, but it was learned that in their defense, they said that it was wrong to suggest that the pitch was doctored or spin-friendly. The pitch kept low and slow because of the amount of cricket it had taken. Nagpur hosted practice matches and six qualifiers and the pitch for the India-New Zealand game was being used for the fourth time.
Experts aren’t buying ‘tired pitches’ as a valid excuse for the low scoring matches. Australian cricketer Shane Watson said: “To be able to see that wicket last night in Nagpur, I’ve played cricket here around this time previously and even into the IPL as well when the wickets you think should be fairly tired, but they’re very good cricket wickets. So maybe just that situation of the game meant the wicket was fairly dry.”
Further, the present Indian top order including an out of form Shikhar Dhawan haven’t led quality spin well in recent times. There have been instances when the ball begins to turn square and the Indian batsman haven’t been able to come up with countermeasures. The fast bowlers go out of play if such pitches are being persisted with. Knowing Virat Kohli’s fondness for all out pace, an in-form Jasprit Bumrah and a veteran Ashish Nehra, it certainly isn’t a good idea to prepare square turners.
Additionally, it has been seen that the opposition batsmen have started targeting Ashwin during the powerplay overs. What if someday the opposition succeeds in getting the better of Ashwin or Ashwin doesn’t get enough support from the other end from Ravindra Jadeja, or if the part-timers Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh don’t have a good day on the field?
In the match against Pakistan at Eden Gardens, the pitch was certainly not suited for T20 matches. It was a low scoring game and it was the poor team selection by Pakistan that lost them the game, going in with just 1 specialist spinner.
Many of us have found it a bit intriguing that India, a team consisting of wonderful strikers of the ball, have played so far only on turning wickets which have denied the audiences the pleasure of applauding big hits and massive scores. On the other hand, there have also been games with flat tracks such as the South Africa-England match, in which more than 400 runs were scored.
The curtain-raiser to the tournament, the opening match between India and New Zealand, instead of showcasing the wonderful striking abilities of the batsmen from both sides, became a disappointing display of their lack of skill in countering the turning ball. The wicket, that was designed to help India win, turned against them instead. When you leave cobras on a pitch, they come back to bite you.
At the Eden Gardens, a similar result could have been seen, had Pakistan not misread the wicket and instead of an all-pace attack, went in with some extra helping of spin.
So let’s ask Ravi Shastri, the Indian team manager to trust the striking skills of our batting order and give them tracks which instead of testing their technical skills, allow them to play freely. Playing too much on strips that suit your strength is not only a sign of insecurity and it may also boomerang badly as it did at Nagpur.