The last two pink ball Tests involving India have taken us all by surprise in how swiftly the matches finished.
Day 3 of the Adelaide Test started on a leisurely Saturday and shocked us with an Indian batting collapse for the ages.
Similarly, we went into Day 2 of the Ahmedabad Test expecting an Indian batting day. What followed was absolute mayhem that saw 17 wickets fall in a day, and the matched decided by late evening.
When such shocking collapses have England at the receiving end, excuses, complaints, conspiracy theories and endless debates on the pitch’s unfairness are not too far off.
As expected, the pitch was termed poor and the victor was discredited of the win.
Let’s try to understand the controversies surrounding the pitch.
Pitch was unplayable – myth
The straight ball got most of the wickets, and this should tell us that most of the batsmen played without a clear strategy on a turning pitch.
If you remember that Steven Smith masterclass in Pune in 2017, Smith played every delivery inside the ball’s line, assuming that it will turn into him. So when the ball spun away, it beat his bat comfortably. He scored a masterful century on the same pitch on which the other batsmen came a cropper.
Like Axar Patel in Ahmedabad, Stephen O’Keefe got his wickets in Pune with the ball that went straight with the arm.
Wasim Akram said in an interview that Martin Crowe was the batsman who played him best. Akram said that Crowe would play every ball assuming it will swing back into him. So when the ball held the line, it beat his bat most of the time.
So irrespective of how helpful the conditions were, when the batsman faces a bowling unit that can threaten both edges of the bat, the batsmen will need a clear strategy to guard himself.
Most of the time, the successful ones have played inside the line, protecting their pads and the stumps.
With this knowledge, if you watched the Ahmedabad Test, you could see that the batsmen’s thought processes on both sides was not correct.
Indian batsmen also collapsed, so the pitch must be bad – myth
There was a time when India used to produce batsmen who played spin brilliantly. This is not the case with the Indian teams of the past ten years or so.
We have seen them collapse to spin on various occasions at home and away, such as Pune in 2017, Mumbai in 2012, Southampton in 2014 and 2018, Ahmedabad in 2021, Chennai in 2021, the list goes on.
The point is that Indian batsmen have stopped being the barometer of batsmanship against spin. They are now part of the problem and have made the regular Indian pitch appear unplayable.
Pink ball, the hidden villain – true
The joker in the pack is the pink ball. The Ahmedabad Test was the first occasion when the pink ball was tested on a turning pitch.
During his post-match interview, Joe Root spoke about how the ball hurried on to the batsmen after pitching and surprised the players. Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Ben Foakes shaped for a cut but instantly found themselves trapped in front or lost their stumps.
The batsmen’s unfamiliarity with the pink ball’s behaviour on a turning pitch is a big reason for the collapse on both sides.
If the match had been played with the red ball, at least the Indian batsmen would have put up a better show.
My recommendation to those blaming the pitch is that they should reconsider and give some weight to the pink ball’s behaviour.