It is time India started treating its bowlers with more respect

Turning tracks have been the running theme of England’s tour of India thus far. And by the looks of it, most of their batsmen don’t just have technical problems facing up to India’s spinners on slow pitches, they have so far struggled to mentally tune themselves to stay patient. It is still possible that the likes of Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen may be inspired by skipper Alastair Cook’s magnificent knock in a losing cause in the first Test in Ahmedabad.

India skipper MS Dhoni has rightly faced the flak for calling for pitches that turn from the first delivery! It would be interesting to see whether any Indian curator, who dreads the call to tinker with the pitch before every Test against big rivals, can actually make spinners make merry from the start. Kanpur’s Green Park in the past has come closest to achieving that, but were then warned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for producing a sub-standard pitch.

In the sub-continent, genuine cricket fans look forward to matches in India more than Sri Lanka or Pakistan because the pitches have, by and large, more life than the other two countries. Barring exceptions, Indian pitches will play slow and gradually give in to the guile of spinners. But demanding rank turners is as much poor advertisement for India’s cricket and aspirations of regaining the top spot they lost in England last year.

Although India’s spinners end up taking wickets by the bucketful, it is unlikely these strikes would be celebrated in time to come like those performances achieved on more sporting pitches. Thus, in a sense, the captain and the cricket authorities are condemning their own spin bowlers. In a country which adores batsmen and places bowlers down the queue, it is nothing but exploitation of a brand of bowlers who were once the biggest advertisement for Indian cricket.

By contrast, those waking up early to watch the Australia-South Africa Tests have been rewarded with some magnificent batting. Not many are complaining that the first Test ended in a draw. And Australia skipper Michael Clarke’s stunning double century — fourth this year and a record in Test history — was as much a spectacle by itself. The match was a real contest, as Test cricket should be.

It is time India shed the fear of losing at home. As former India players like Maninder Singh have urged, the Indian camp should leave pitch preparation to the curators. So far, it was been an insult to the unsung breed of groundsmen as well.

By N Ananthanarayanan

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