A flat pitch, bad luck (in the context of the toss result), bad fielding, hot and humid conditions, a four-bowler policy and some good batting from the South Africans all conspired together to leave the South Africans slightly ahead at the end of day-1 of the 1st Test between India and South Africa.
Harbhajan Singh in his post-match-interview said that the Chennai pitch was, “very very flat”. One day… Some day, the BCCI will realise that pitches need to be good to retain the attraction that Test cricket has for many in this world. We live in eternal hope. Many “Pitch Committees” have come and gone. But all we are left with, as a legacy of these successive committees, is a pitch for more jobs for the boys. Former cricketers come and go, but the pitches appear to be the same. Bone dry and boring!
What we saw yesterday was a flat, dry pitch that did nothing for the bowlers. The pitch bore a stunning resemblance to the boring pitches that were prepared for the Pakistan series. This is an early call to make, but it looks very likely that we are set for yet another (yawn!) long, slow and boring series! In his article on Cricinfo, Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan argues that some of India’s best recent victories have come on sporting pitches! It amazes me then that BCCI cannot recognise this and prepare lively pitches in India too!
No doubt, this pitch will take some spin from day-3 onwards, but a look at the pitch yesterday was enough for words like dry, flat, unresponsive, boring and insipid to jump to the forefront!
It is, therefore, amazing that India chose to go into this Test match with only 4 bowlers! On a dry pitch and in hot-humid conditions, a four-bowler policy would have been terrible had India lost the toss. India did lose the toss and it was, indeed, terrible.
The pace bowlers bowled like millionaires and leaked runs! There were fours flying off the bats of Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith. Although India did reign in the rampaging South Africans in sessions 2 and 3, the early damage had been done. South Africa hit a total of forty-five fours on day-1! While the dry, sapping heat and poor fielding could account for some of those fours, I think the bowlers need to put their hands up and admit that they had a bad day at the office! A 5th bowler was called for.
After seeing the fielding-heroics in CB series in Australia, where a young Team India threw themselves around to stop any white object that flew towards them, the fielding standards in the Test team was expected to be poor. But one did not quite expect the shoddy display that we did see! Harbhajan Singh himself admitted, “I think we have given around 20-30 runs in our fielding and that makes a big difference. I hope tomorrow we put in a good performance in bowling, batting and fielding. It would have been nice to stop those 30 runs and see the scoreboard at the end on 270 for 4.” Even Yuvraj Singh, substituting for Sachin Tendulkar, cut a sorry figure on the field. It was ironic that the oldest man on the park had the most spectacular fielding moment of the day when Anil Kumble dived to his left to snatch a return catch!
I score the first two sessions to RSA and score an even third session. So, my Session-By-Session score for this Test would read India, 0 : RSA, 2. India will hope for a better day-2 in this Test match.