Image for South Africa In India 2015, The Freedom Series: Why Virat Kohli & Co ...

... Should Not Be Playing On Pitches As The One On Offer In The First Test At Mohali

Team India, after losing the Twenty20 International (T20I) and One-Day International (ODI) series to South Africa, have made a positive start to the final leg of the Proteas’ 72-day long tour of India. Their 108-run win in the first Test at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium in Mohali, has given them a 1-0 lead in the 4-match Test series. This is the first time India have led South Africa in this titanic tussle, named as The Freedom Series, between the two sides that have played and produced good cricket throughout.

The home side had some really good individual performances in Virat Kohli’s first Test on home soil as India’s Test captain, but the nature of the pitch dominated the talking points right from the first morning of the 1st Test, which ended well within 3 days. It was difficult to describe the nature of the pitch that played all sorts of tricks, was overly dry and massively assisted the spinners from both sides. Even batsmen who are known to play spin well, looked confounded and had to give body and soul solely for survival at the crease.

This wicket was in stark contrast to the one dished out at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai for the 5th and final ODI, which South Africa went onto win – and thus clinched the ODI series 3-2 – emphatically. Indian bowlers, including the spinners, had nothing on offer for them on that pitch, which saw the visitors put up a whopping 438/4 on the board after winning the toss and electing to bat first. Following the thrashing at the hands of the Proteas by 214 runs, Ravi Shastri, Team India’s director, was not impressed one bit by the Wankhede pitch and its curator, going onto caustically criticize him. I wonder if Shastri’s outburst following the Mumbai ODI loss, had an effect on Daljit Singh, the Mohali pitch curator, and resulted in him preparing the sort of pitch he did.

Yes, on one side of the coin, a pitch as the one in Mumbai, for a Test match, would have alleviated India’s chances of winning. It could also have seen South Africa carry over the momentum from their T20I and ODI series wins against the Men In Blue. Every one of us could understand Shastri’s cry for pitches favoring the home side, India, a call which, by no means, is an aberration. But how much of an aberration was the Mohali pitch, on which India exposed South Africa’s ineptitude to play spin? And why should India not be playing on such pitches?

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*Suhith Kumar