Pitch perfect: Kohli’s curator influence on home wickets

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Australian curators are free to go about their business unhindered by authorities. They do not receive instructions and their preparations are not monitored by anyone. They prepare a surface and are then judged on it.

    In India, it is a very different situation.

    The BCCI has a pitch committee that oversees the preparation of each Test strip. Curators, of their own admission, are relegated to supernumeraries as they follow the demands of this committee.

    In the opening Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series at Pune, its demands backfired, Australia winning inside three days by 333 runs on a dry and bald pitch.

    Pune was far from satisfactory as a Test match pitch. The ICC believes so too, having issued the BCCI with a ‘please explain’.

    Prior to a ball being bowled, Ravi Shastri described it as a Day 5 strip. Shane Warne went further, declaring it a Day 8 surface.

    The BCCI has responded to the ICC, saying that it was not a poor pitch. The Pune curator, Pandurang Salgaoncar, let his feelings be known after the match.

    “I had clearly warned the BCCI against preparing a bald and dry pitch. I don’t want to take names, but I had told them that not watering the pitch and removing the grass cover could have a detrimental effect. I know deep within that I had tried my best to make them understand,” he told News 18’s Cricket Next.

    “What can I do? The fact is that we are reduced to helpers ahead of an international match and we have to follow the instruction of the BCCI pitch committee members present to oversee the preparation. My job was to follow instructions and I did that.”

    In Australia, it is doubtful any curator would accept such outside coercion.

    At Bangalore, the pitch also came in for criticism, but it was a very different scenario.

    Before the match commenced, there was a unanimous view that the Chinnaswamy Stadium surface would be a good one. Shastri, Sunil Gavaskar, Brett Lee, Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden all proffered that the pitch would be a good one for batting over the first three days, before natural deterioration would aid the spinners.

    It was not long before everyone was taken by surprise.

    Balls were keeping low on the first day, while Nathan Lyon returned opening day figures of 8-50. Several batsmen, from both sides, were brought undone by deliveries that nearly shot along the pitch surface.

    We can take it the way the pitch played was a surprise also to the BCCI pitch committee.


    Now, we await the pitch that will be used at Ranchi, having already heard plenty about how preparations are coming along.

    News Limited journalist Ben Horne wrote in The Daily Telegraph on Friday, “Australia is set to walk head on into another Indian conspiracy in Ranchi, with the local curator making the stunning admission that Virat Kohli will be allowed to handpick the pitch he wants.”

    Shortly afterwards, Jharkhand State Cricket Association secretary Debashis Chakraborty denied the accusation, saying, “We have nine pitches here at the stadium and of which three have been prepared for this Test as is the norm with any other association hosting a Test match.

    “Once the officials come here they will choose which pitch to play on.”

    Given that Kohli will be in Ranchi when the officials choose the pitch, it is a fair bet that he will have some input.

    As for Chakraborty’s assertion that every association prepares three strips before choosing one, that was not the case at Pune or Bangalore.

    In fact, at Bangalore, it was clear that only one surface had ever been brought up, given the fancy, rectangular mowing pattern that was evident over the verdant areas on either side of the match pitch.

    Why there has suddenly been a change of policy for Ranchi is something we may find out closer to the match. Why the association secretary says it is standard practice when it is not also needs explanation.

    In some ways, the individual associations are totally beholden to the BCCI when it comes to preparing pitches.

    By the time this series concludes at Dharamsala, India will have played 15 consecutive home Tests in 15 different cities. Three of the venues used in this series – Pune, Ranchi and Dharamsala – are hosting Test cricket for the first time.

    Each summer in Australia, there are only six venues considered for hosting rights with each of them used, except for Ashes summers where Hobart misses out.

    There is no such luxury in India.

    With so many Test venues available, failure to sate the BCCI’s desires could cause an association to be overlooked for future matches.

    It is a situation that most other Test-playing nations do not face.

    We also know the way Indian skippers react when they fail to be handed the pitch they want.

    The India-Australia Test at Nagpur in 2004 descended into farce pre-match when Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh withdrew after a green top was produced.

    Ganguly had been quoted extensively in the press prior to the match that his desire was for a spin-friendly pitch.

    It was reported in the Indian press after India lost the match – and with it, its first series loss at home to Australia in 34 years – that someone within the Indian dressing room told a member of the Australian touring party that his skipper was suffering from “green wicket-itis”.

    The three venues making their Test debuts in this series will have felt inordinate pressure to sate the pitch committee’s desires. We now wait to see what both Ranchi and Dharamsala throw up.

    One thing is certain: those preparing the pitch, and the administrators at both venues, will be on tenterhooks as they hope to satisfy the BCCI’s demands.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (159)

    • Roar Rookie

      March 14th 2017 @ 5:02am
      Chancho said | March 14th 2017 @ 5:02am | ! Report

      I thought it was a widely held phenomenon that we in Australia prepare roads to give tests the oportunity to last the full 5 days due to to TV scheduling? Is this not correct?

      To be honest, whether it’s down to curators, or there is a pitch committee at the national level for tests, it doesn’t really bother me how the decisions are made, provided that the decks make for good cricket and a bit in it for each side. That’s probably a bit too idealistic maybe? Having said that, a home captain should probably not have the right to spit the dummy if he’s not given the wicket he desires – they already have a sufficient advantage playing at home and that should be the extent of it.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 7:35am
        qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

        “I thought it was a widely held phenomenon that we in Australia prepare roads to give tests the oportunity to last the full 5 days due to to TV scheduling? Is this not correct?”

        Yes. It is not correct. Even allowing for drop-ins, Oz pitches are the hardest in the world. They’re not at all helpful to finger-spinners and swing ‘n’ seam. The only bowling asset they have is bounce, ergo the minimum height restriction of 6’14” that’s currently in place for Oz fast bowlers.

        • March 14th 2017 @ 10:02am
          I hate pies said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          They’re the hardest pitches in the world for bowlers. They’re batsman’s paradise. Only in Australia is the all mighty dollar put ahead of the quality of the game.

          • March 14th 2017 @ 10:26am
            qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

            pies said: “Only in Australia is the all mighty dollar put ahead of the quality of the game.”

            Errrr…. Three day games on Indian goat tracks?

            • March 14th 2017 @ 11:38am
              I hate pies said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

              What? How is a 3 day game putting dollars ahead of the game?

              • March 14th 2017 @ 3:23pm
                qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

                India winning is the important factor as it makes the TV rights more profitable. And you did say “…*quality* of the game…”

              • March 14th 2017 @ 4:49pm
                ViratKohli said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

                There is a different way to look at this –

                With TV rights being auctioned in multi year deals, the revenue that administration gets is more or less fixed. However in case of the Broadcaster (like Ch 9), the revenue is lost as the game was shorter. So in effect its a Loss.

                There is an argument that the brand value of the series increases if India is winning, which i think is a misnomer as over the past 25 years the Cricket brans has just seen an upward trent in India irrespective of performance.

            • March 14th 2017 @ 11:59am
              Nudge said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

              Personally I would prefer roads in Aus because South Africa are the only team that can compete with us at home. If they were bowler friendly we still make 450 and watch West Indies, NZ, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka get rolled twice for under 200. Even England didn’t make it past day 3 in a couple of tests when they were here last and they were so called roads. ( it just so happened that Australia averaged over 400 in their first innings, while England averaged a tick under or over 200) I like watching cricket in my holidays on the 29th and 30th of December and the 6th and 7th of January

              • March 14th 2017 @ 4:38pm
                MANISH K RAO said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

                Don’t think Australia will make 450 on bowler friendly wickets. We have seen australia roll over for under 100 whenever ball moves in the air or spins. You are overestimating present Australian team capabilities.

              • March 14th 2017 @ 5:15pm
                Nudge said | March 14th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

                Not in Australia I’m not, unless it’s a team with a good fast bowling attack and only RSA have that.

              • March 14th 2017 @ 6:43pm
                Andy said | March 14th 2017 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

                And in the ashes before that Australia lost three tests by an innings and last time NZ were here they averaged 329 an innings.

              • March 14th 2017 @ 7:27pm
                Nudge said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

                Great work Andy. You’ve been able to come up with 2 test series in the past 15. In fact in one of the test series you’ve spoken about NZ we’re beaten 2 zip in a three test series. And I will admit the test that was a draw was the flattest wicket I have ever seen in Australia. The WACA did get that one wrong.

              • March 14th 2017 @ 7:59pm
                John Erichsen said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

                Bellerieve was bowler friendly this summer yet I don’t recall us making the 450 you throw around with gay abandon. Try 85 and 161.
                In the first pink ball test against NZ, with extra grass on the pitch to protect the pink ball, we scored 224 and were 7/181 when we won. Hardly, the 450 you dream about.
                Its easy to see why we don’t see many bowler-friendly pitches in Australia. We struggle to make runs on them.
                We are not alone in this. Most modern sides are poor on bowler-friendly pitches and even at home we are nothing like 250 runs an innings better. Not unless you are only looking at when we play at home against the West Indies or Bangladesh.

              • March 14th 2017 @ 9:18pm
                Nudge said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:18pm | ! Report

                Bowler friendly is probably the wrong word. Maybe I should have said more in favour of the bowlers. The problem as I see it, is that Australia get accused of producing flat wickets, because so often we score between 400 and 600 in the first innings. Yet when it’s the oppositions time to bat, the wickets seem to go haywire and they can’t get to a respectable score

              • March 14th 2017 @ 10:28pm
                Andy said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:28pm | ! Report

                Last time India were here they scored less than 200 once and that was because they batted last in a rain abandoned game. Pakistan scored less than 200 twice the same number of times they scored more than 400. Hell even the West Indies only scored less than 200 once same with the Kiwis.
                Australia wins at home and are given as much of a challenge as we give them over seas.

              • March 14th 2017 @ 10:43pm
                Nudge said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:43pm | ! Report

                Yeah righto. Just let you know in the past 25 years, between England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, NZ, India, and the West Indies, they have won one test series in Australia. One

      • March 14th 2017 @ 10:01pm
        Bobbo7 said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

        Yes, Australia’s pitches are absolute roads. As good as Smith and Warner are, their massive home averages are largely due to the fact they play longer Test series on roads all around Australia. Any decent bat makes runs here. Kohli and Williamson both average over 50 in Australia against a superior bowling attack.

        Again, Smith and Warner are very good players, Smith in particular. But the days of Australian pitches doing anything are long gone.

        My preference would be for the ICC to oversea the preparation of all Test pitches. Probably impractical and won’t happen but might make for more interesting cricket.

        • March 15th 2017 @ 11:58am
          John Erichsen said | March 15th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

          Warner perhaps, but Smith’s away average is 52, which is still in the great batsmen category.

    • March 14th 2017 @ 5:35am
      Rob JM said | March 14th 2017 @ 5:35am | ! Report

      Maybe all test venues should produce 3 different test wickets and the visiting side picks which one to play on.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 7:36am
        qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

        That’s a lot of work for the ground staff. On the assumption, and it’s a big one, that the groundsman is fair dinkum in his preparation.

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2017 @ 8:09am
          Red Kev said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

          I have never given it much thought before, but on Australian squares (before drop-ins at least) there always used to be at least one other pitch in a varying state of preparation for an upcoming game. I wonder if the curators do bring up two or three pitches and decide on which one to take all the way and which to leave season a little more (or if it is just X days before match and therefore the only start one for each match).

          • March 14th 2017 @ 8:47am
            qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

            “I wonder if the curators do bring up two or three pitches and decide on which one to take all the way and which to leave season a little more”

            They usually have their #1 pitch, the centre of the block, targeted for the Test and will only shift from there if something goes wrong. eg. An Adele concert ruins it, Shield player deposit 100 litres of urine on a good length etc

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2017 @ 8:48am
            Chris Kettlewell said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

            Pitch preparation takes many weeks. I’m pretty sure a shield pitch probably has at least 6 weeks of prep and a test pitch significantly longer. So when you see other pitches that look almost playable they will either be ones that was just recently used or ones that are being brought up for the next match to be played at the venue. (For instance, when playing the test match at the SCG there will likely be at least 2 pitches in late stage preparation, one for BBL, one for ODI’s, one pitch that’s recently been used for the BBL games prior to the test, and one that’s at an earlier stage of preparation for the first Shield match after the BBL finishes).

    • March 14th 2017 @ 7:09am
      Darwin Stubbie said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:09am | ! Report

      We’re getting some of the most enthralling test cricket for ages and yet some aren’t happy – what do you want – the uniform roadways that now pass for a pitch across every Aust test venue ? … who cares why its happened because its about time we got pitches with a bit of assistance in them for the home team – thats what touring was all about playing in different conditions … and you cant say Aust have been disadvantaged up to now

      • March 14th 2017 @ 7:31am
        qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

        “and you cant say Aust have been disadvantaged up to now”

        That’s because it’s 1-1 in toss wins.

        • March 14th 2017 @ 4:48pm
          Sahas said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

          Rank turners nullify toss advantage. It’s pitches like in England that have toss advantage of being flattest in first two days and then breaking up

          • March 14th 2017 @ 7:16pm
            qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

            Sahas said: “Rank turners nullify toss advantage.”

            So how do you explain that the first two Tests, played on rank turners, have gone with the toss?

            • March 15th 2017 @ 2:14am
              Sahas said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:14am | ! Report

              How do you explain aus not winning any tests in 2013 despite winning all tosses on rank turners??

              • March 15th 2017 @ 8:34am
                qwetzen said | March 15th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

                Sahas said: “How do you explain aus not winning any tests in 2013 despite winning all tosses on rank turners??”

                Well one reason would be that all the pitches weren’t “rank turners”.
                Another reason could be that Oz only played one spinner in three Tests.
                Another reason could be that India are the better side on their home pitches. Just as Aust are on ours. (Istr that India got absolutely obliterated by Oz in the series before 2013)

                And here’s an interesting stat… In the 2013 series each Indian wicket cost Oz 40.9. In the current series that value is 16.9. Looks like the quality of pitches has got worse and/or the Oz bowling’s got better to me.

        • March 14th 2017 @ 10:24pm
          Steele said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

          We got a lot closer than they did, and if we had a number six may have won.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 7:50am
        Chui said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        Do you honestly think that the two pitches that have been produced so far fall into the category of ‘a bit of assistance’?

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2017 @ 8:06am
          Red Kev said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:06am | ! Report

          A century was scored in the first test (sure it was lucky but there were also a couple of fifties) and a batsman got a fifty in each innings in the second – runs could be scored if you were good enough.

          • March 14th 2017 @ 9:51am
            qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 9:51am | ! Report

            Why that’s just cobras. It was *such* a bad pitch that the ICC actually rated it “poor”. An event of an equivalent magnitude to Australia criticising America in the UN.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 7:58am
        Freddy from Bondi said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Agree totally Stubb.

        That’s what makes winning away from home all the more special. I don’t care how the pitch decision gets made because ultimately that’s a decision for the host nation.

        And can anyone tell me when the last Australian test match even came close to being as entertaining and exciting as the first two in this Indian series?

        Admittedly, I think there’s room for slight improvement (e.g. the ball shouldn’t be keeping low on day 1) but apart from that, keep up the good work…series like these have the potential to revive test cricket around the world!

        • March 14th 2017 @ 10:04am
          I hate pies said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:04am | ! Report

          Both pitches were a disgrace. No batsmen should ever have to face a grubber in a test match.

          • Roar Guru

            March 14th 2017 @ 10:14am
            Anindya Dutta said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

            Then clearly the MCG should only have 4-day matches.

            • Roar Guru

              March 14th 2017 @ 12:17pm
              Chris Kettlewell said | March 14th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

              Day 5 is a different story. If you aren’t getting some significantly variable bounce come day 5 of a test then the pitch is probably held together too well and needs to break up more. But you shouldn’t be getting real shooters and the like on the first day of a test.

              • March 14th 2017 @ 1:44pm
                I hate pies said | March 14th 2017 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

                Some variation in bounce is ok. Grubbers are never acceptable, even at the MCG

            • March 14th 2017 @ 2:21pm
              Art Vanderlay said | March 14th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

              Been a long time since the MCG produced “grubbers” pal.

            • March 14th 2017 @ 8:10pm
              John Erichsen said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

              I have seen grubbers at Adelaide too, although not before day 4. There was also a very ordinary Perth wicket prepared during a test series against Pakistan. Of course, it was nearly 40 years ago, so not quite as regular as these Indian “pitches”.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 10:07am
        handles said | March 14th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        I agree with DS. The tests in India have been great, and the pitches have been a major reason for that. The BCCI are clearly doing a better job by coordinating the preparation than Australia’s random approach.

        Sure, Pune wasn’t a good pitch, but it produced good cricket. Compare this to Perth (yes, the bouncy bouncy WACA), where the second innings(es?) produced over 900 runs this season! I can’t recall a test innings over 400 that was “exciting”. Games in the balance, batmen challenged by every ball, spinners finding footmarks and natural variation in the surface, I will take that any day over Duminy and Elgar batting for 70 overs.

        • March 14th 2017 @ 11:28am
          Matt said | March 14th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

          Totally agree mate and i am amazed why only a low scoring pitch is termed as poor why not high scoring tame draws?? I have never heard a high scoring draw match pitch rated poor why?? As long as low scoring pitch is not dangerous to batsman it should not be an issue and thats been the case in india.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 3:30pm
        Cadfael said | March 14th 2017 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

        Enthralling, maybe. But the first test was over in three days and the second inside 4 days. Ideally we want tests to run for 4 – 5 days.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 4:00pm
        Ted said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

        Here here….love it when the batsmen has to earn every run.

    • March 14th 2017 @ 7:29am
      qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      The big question is; What Can the ICC Do About It?

      I suspect nothing. India will orchestrate its puppets to prevent any significant changes and they have enough Test venues to not care if a few do cop a 12 month suspension.

      • March 15th 2017 @ 10:15pm
        Adrian said | March 15th 2017 @ 10:15pm | ! Report

        Pitch doctoring was meant to be illegal, but, like everything else, India is immune to international cricket rules because of $$$$.

    • March 14th 2017 @ 7:41am
      Mick said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Get rid of the toss of the coin. Having the visiting Captain decide whether to bat or bowl will stop the pitches being tailor made for the home side.

      • Roar Guru

        March 14th 2017 @ 3:33pm
        Cadfael said | March 14th 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

        I would like the toss for the first test to go to the team winning the toss then it is up to the other captain for the second test and so on. That way the toss only affects the first test,

      • March 14th 2017 @ 4:52pm
        Sahas said | March 14th 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

        Yea like how Australia won all the tosses in 2013 and stil lost 4-0 or the time when England won all toses bar one recently and still lost 4-0
        Care to explain?

        • March 14th 2017 @ 7:35pm
          qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:35pm | ! Report

          I’ll give it a go.

          1. The pitches weren’t as bad as the first two of this series. (Check the scores) Therefore the toss wasn’t as critical.
          2. Oz only played two spinners in one test. And one of those spinners was the unlucky Doherty.
          3. India were the better side on these tracks. (As opposed to Oz tracks where India had been obliterated and humiliated in 2011/12.)

          • March 14th 2017 @ 8:18pm
            John Erichsen said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

            Nice explanation.

            The difference in pitches between this series and the recent series against England is all the evidence needed to prove that Indian pitches are purposefully prepared for the opposition they will face. Obviously, India were less worried about Lyon and O’Keefe than they were of the English tweakers. That was their first mistake, judging by the first test result.

          • March 15th 2017 @ 2:24am
            Sahas said | March 15th 2017 @ 2:24am | ! Report

            First of all I don’t comment an a pitch by “checking the scores “. What do you mean ? The moment you see low scores in the subcontinent you say poor pitches?
            In rank turners pitches turn from day one ok !! Remember day ONE . So it is not any advantageous to the team batting first as you found out in Bangalore . If not for some poor bowling on day 3 aus would have won it even if they had lost the toss. Also a rank turners allows teams who had a horror day 1 to came back in to the game like India did . Say suppose Bangalore was a flat track . India bats first , the ball does not turn , score 600 . Aus bat on day 3 by the time pitch stars to crumble . They make 350 odd . Bat again on last day and loose the match. That is the description of the Indias flat track tests matches for over 2 decades . Eng could not win because they never had the quality of spinners who could utilise pitche son day 3 and 4 . And I think aus have in Lyon and SOK . That’s why the sudden change in pitches to turners this series.
            And why talk of India record is aus now when it is aus in India now

      • March 14th 2017 @ 8:14pm
        John Erichsen said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

        Pitches will always favour the home side because they are far more familiar with the conditions. Your suggestion is one way to guarantee pitches are prepared as neutral as possible as curators will know the visiting skipper will get the pick of conditions every time. Been preaching this for quite a while now.

    • March 14th 2017 @ 8:01am
      Brasstax said | March 14th 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      The only way to end this farce is to have ICC appointed pitch curators similar to ICC appointed umpires and match referees.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 12:56pm
        Bugo said | March 14th 2017 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

        Eh? So many things can happen to a patch of grass and dirt, how can this be monitored by an all powerful official?

        • Roar Guru

          March 14th 2017 @ 3:34pm
          Cadfael said | March 14th 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

          Spot on. I remember an attack of fuserium on a test wicket, nowhere else on the ground, only the wicket.

      • March 14th 2017 @ 7:36pm
        qwetzen said | March 14th 2017 @ 7:36pm | ! Report

        Can you really see India allowing this through the ICC?

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