Strategies in Delhi for India and Australia


We’ve written and read a fair bit since the Mohali mauling about India’s near-perfect game, about the contrasting tales of the two captains at Mohali, about the Poms already rejoicing, about biased Match Referees, about reverse swing, about strange parallels between Perth and Delhi, and much more.

On Cricinfo, Dileep Premachandran analyses the Anil Kumble situation rather crisply, while Ian Chappell has opined that M. S. Dhoni has to stay on as captain of India from here on in!

My own view on this is that Anil Kumble has to decide what is best for him and for Team India. He has earned his stripes to make that call, in my view. If he is 100% fit to play and if he wants to play, he must play at Delhi, where 74 year-old Radhey Shyam Sharma, the Feroz Shah Kotla curator who is a match away from retiring, has said that he has prepared a “present” for Anil Kumble! The Kotla pitch has always taken spin — slow on the first few days and quite a handful on days 4 and 5 (if the Test lasts that long)! Anil Kumble has presided over Kotla as its master and it is more of a “home” ground to him than Bengaluru is.

If Anil Kumble does decide to play Amit Mishra, who took 7 wickets at Mohali on debut, must make way. While it is quite seductive for India to go into the Delhi Test with 3 spinners, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma — at the cost of V. V. S. Laxman — I do not believe this will (or indeed should) happen. I am not sure what an additional bowler will add. Moreover, in what could potentially be a low-scoring grind-game, the additional bat in Laxman will be useful for India to have.

This will be rough on Amit Mishra. But his time will come the moment Anil Kumble decides to hang up his boots — my sense and hope is that Kumble will decide to retire after the Tests in November/December against England. For now, Amit Mishra has carved his name into Team India team sheet in a compelling manner.

Australia does face a few headaches. However, apart from an adjustment to their mindset (too defensive in the first two Test matches) and their reverse swing art, I am not sure that the team needs to (or indeed, will) change anything else. Australia does not have a quality spinner in its ranks. I’d like to believe that Stuart Clark will come in for Peter Siddle if the former is fit and recovered from his elbow strain. This will be a blow to Peter Siddle, who bowled quite well at Mohali.

The one change that I would like to see is in the Australian batting order in the case of an early wicket fall. At the moment, Ricky Ponting is not at the height of his game in India. An early wicket causes him to freeze just a bit. At Bengaluru, his defensive approach set the tone for Australia batting throughout the game. At Mohali, he strutted and stewed for a while without casting any impression.

I’d instead think that Michael Hussey at #3 would be a much better option for Australia on this tour. He is positive. He bats confidently. He rotates the strike without looking to dominate the bowling. And he is not scared of either Ishant Sharma or Harbhajan Singh!

Delhi should present a wonderful opportunity for Australia to show that it is still a champion team that can bounce back from adversity. Much like India did at Perth — one of India’s most famous wins ever, in my view — Delhi is a wonderful opportunity for the Australians to dig deep and come hard at India in India’s own den.

I have a feeling that the game could be an absolute scorcher and can’t wait for it to begin!

— Mohan

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19 responses to “Strategies in Delhi for India and Australia

  1. Interesting times!!

    Few moons ago, Ganguly opted out of a match–simply because the curator–not from NZ!!!—couldn’t or wouldn’t prepare the pitch that the Prince wanted

    Now we have a curator , unashamedly telegraphing the world that he has a present for Kumble!!

    I suppose it is not Kumble that is DOCTORING the pitch–and hence it A OK !!!!

    Can the match referee report the curator now—for bringing the game into disrepute?

    I am sure ICC would have a committee somewhere in Dubai that has responsibility for doctored pitches–with a retired Cop from Scotland Yard as the Chief Investigator!!

  2. @Sampath

    Ganguly opted out of a match because the curator would not prepare that pitch? Where is the proof?

    What do you expect in Delhi? A pitch like Perth? Get real. Delhi will spin just as Perth bounces.

    There is nothing wrong with bounce. And there certainly nothing wrong with spin.

    Next you will say that Indians can only play right-handed and on the legside. Just as offside and left-handed play are allowed in cricket, bounce and spin are very much part of the game.

    You get bounce in Perth; spin in Delhi. Get used to it. If not, cope with it. If pain persists, see a doctor! 🙂

    Would you report the Perth curator to the ICC for doctoring?

    I mean, why CAN’T the Perth curator prepare a spinning pitch? Is it impossible?

    When in Rome, expect to see some Romans. If you don’t like the Romans, do not visit Rome; no one forced you to visit Rome. If you go to Rome and bemoan the fact that you haven’t seen the Sydney Opera House, get your head checked pronto! 🙂

    As far as I know the rules, there is no known ICC law that says teams visiting India ought not to have a decent spin bowler in their midst.

    — Mohan

  3. both teams are great, team india for the win!

  4. Great post, Mohan. You’re absolutely right about the Delhi pitch.

    And Kumble has surely earned the right to pick his own time, not just because he’s been such a great performer for India, but also because he’s shown time and again that he gives everything he has everytime.

    I’m sure Amit Mishra is a good bowler, but he can surely wait a few more months.

  5. Well, maybe Dravid should open in place of Gambhir? Play five bowlers?

  6. Like all retired cricketers looking to sell their book ,Gilly has attacked someone http://cricket.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/3634330.cms. He has proved with his remarks on SACHIN that he belongs more to the band Ponting,hayden, symonds than waugh,taylor or warne. .Another hypocrite who talks about keeping it on the field and Aussie way of playing.What makes these guys think that the world should follow their way of approaching the game? Not sure how long Aussies are going to milk monkeygate! Symonds made sure he is always remembered irrespective of his on-field records.
    Would be curious to see the support for Gilly in IPL after slandering the GOD?

  7. Mohan,

    A curator’s job is to prepare a pitch that will last FIVE days.

    A curator–like the umpires must be seen and not heard.

    A curator should not show BIAS .

    DCA is not as forward thinking as my beloved KSCA and Brijesh Patel who brought in a neutral curator from New Zealand.

    Mr Sharma has failed on all counts–by proclaiming to the world that he is BIASED .
    And he is proud of the fact that he has always prepared Kumble-friendly pitch.

    It does smell of match fixing. I wonder if any of the Guptas in that part of the world had anything to do with it!!

    Warne and Mark Waugh got off with a slap on the wrist for telegraphing pitch conditions to a bookie. They were lucky because they couldn’t be tried the second time for the offence after they were penalised earlier, after the then CEO botched it up the first time.

    Mr Sharma is influencing the selectors towards selecting Kumble!! It is unfair to my namesake P Kumar .

    If the Kotla pitch is spinner friendly, then Kumble is an inferior choice to Mishra–who turned the ball at Mohali just like Warnie.

    May be that it is time we have neutral curators–just like neutral umpires!! ( not that Kiwi curator again–otherwise India would have won in Bengaluru too!!)

    Yet again, all this may be just a beat up by an Australian journalist in Chloe Satau who writes for The Age and not Hindustan Times!!

  8. @Sampath

    It is good to read The Age and The Australian but necessary to form independent views.

    I personally challenge all “established” norms that Australians set.

    “A curator’s job is to prepare a pitch that will last FIVE days.”

    Says who?

    I say that it is the curators’ job to prepare a good pitch that offers excitement; to the spectators, the players, journalists covering the game and TV audiences.

    And in my view, good quality spin bowling offers as much excitement as pace bowling. From a personal point of view, give me Bedi, Venkat, Warne, Prasanna, Kumble, Murali and Benaud any day! I will watch them bowl just as I will watch Garner, Holding, Lillie, Thommo, Imran, Srafraz, Kapil Dev and Hadlee all day.

    “A curator–like the umpires must be seen and not heard.”

    Says who?

    If a curator wants to appear in a TV Serial and is good enough for it, good luck to him. It is a free world out there! Just as you are free to blog, the curator is free to speak. A curator is free to “express” himself too. A pitch is a reflection of the local environment, local soil conditions and also the expression of its curator.

    Which is why I am not a fan of either drop-in pitches or imported curators who just do not get it — like the Kiwi curator for Bangalore.

    “A curator should not show BIAS.”

    There is no evidence that this curator in question has shown bias! He has said that Kumble would love this pitch, just as curators in the past have said “pitch X will have great carry and bounce” which may be euphemism for Brett Lee would enjoy this.

    It is just that this curator hasn’t been to a convent school to understand and know the fine niceties of prim and proper English that you do. He just called it as is.

    Nothing wrong with that at all.

    But then, as I said, if you don’t like Rome, don’t visit. Stay at home and count the beads!

    “DCA is not as forward thinking as my beloved KSCA and Brijesh Patel who brought in a neutral curator from New Zealand.”

    In my view, that curator from New Zealand prepared a crap pitch. My maali (gardener) in Bangalore would have done a better job! He prepared a slow pitch that offered neither bounce or carry or spin. The match ended in a draw, for heavens sake. And frankly, even if they had played on for a day or more, I don’t think that that match would have had a result.

    And you hail him as a champion curator and KSCA as “forward thinking”? Just because the KSCA imported a Kiwi? Gimme a break Sam. This conclusion shows you in poor light.

    “And he is proud of the fact that he has always prepared Kumble-friendly pitch.”

    Nothing wrong with that. If Australia had a decent spinner he could have fun on it too.

    Spin is not a crime. You’ve read The Australian and The Age and they have told you that it is a crime. Independent thinking would suggest otherwise. The Conns of the world have told you spin is a crime and pace is ace because, for a long time, they did not have a decent spinner. So they blamed Indian pitches all the time they travelled there! People like you may have believed that rhetoric it blindly.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with spin! Is there?

    Why is it wrong to prepare a spin-friendly pitch when it is not wrong to prepare a pace-friendly pitch! It is just that the pace-friendly people have been shouting from the roof tops for a long time. And people like you have repeated this as though you were in a bhajan!

    “Mr Sharma is influencing the selectors towards selecting Kumble!! It is unfair to my namesake P Kumar .”

    I have no idea who P. Kumar is, but I’ll let that pass!

    I think the Indian selectors are stronger than you. They do not get brainwashed by either The Age or The Australian or, indeed, a curator!

    Why do we need neutral curator?

    Tell me, Why is a SPIN pitch a crime?

    I like seeing good quality spin bowling.

    Please do not ban left handed batting too!

    And please please please explain to me, why can’t the Perth curator prepare a spin-friendly pitch! I think the Delhi curator should be given the Perth job! I’d love to see spin in Perth!

    — Mohan

  9. theblackirishman

    In terms of the OZ eleven, I’d prfer to see oz (or anyone else) play their best eleven. So, having seen Siddle, I’d rather play him (& Clark) rather than a White.

  10. So, you’d play Lee-Clark-Siddle-Johnson on a spinning Delhi pitch?

  11. chris hutchinson

    Mohan,

    Going back to Sampath Kumar’s points re pitch preparation you have again decided to put up each way statements.

    If you cant remember various Indian curators making statements re pitch preparation that is nothing short of doctoring then your opinion is indeed select.

    Using Perth as an example, suggesting doctoring in Australia is folly. It does not happen.

    Perth is hard and fast, but not since drop in wickets came along. Sharma killed Australia in Perth because he is skilled and has a superb brain for his age.

    Melbourne is drop in and useless.

    Sydney is drop and useless.

    Brisbane is brisbane. Green and seaming for two sessions and then flatening out for batsman.

    Adelaide is generally a great batting deck that is getting dustier year by year.

    I am more than happy that Indian’s prepare spinning wickets that a more often than not are slow and low. However your own cricketing compatriots have suggested that India’s home wickets need to be more “global” for want of a better word to aid India’s travelling results.

    Could you please open your mind n this matter.

    I am waiting for your defensive barrage.

  12. @chris

    I am not sure what “doctoring” means in this context? This is a term that the Aussie and British press puts up to describe a manner of preparing pitches that suit the local environment and conditions and contains in it, an expression of the local people.

    Why is that “doctoring”?

    It is like saying that every building in Sydney has to have a Venecian look-and-feel to it!

    No. The Venecian look-and-feel will remain in the environment that suits it best.

    Sydney buildings will suit the environmental conditions that suit Sydney.

    Similarly, Indian pitches will be (must remain to be) a reflection of the Indian expression and environmental conditions.

    There is a huge push towards sameness in this globalised world. I resist that.

    It is this desire for sameness that made the Conns of the world invent the world “doctoring”. It is a phrase being parroted by others in a rather blind manner!

    I want Indian pitches to remain Indian pitches just as I want Perth to be a reflection of Perth!

    You say, “Using Perth as an example, suggesting doctoring in Australia is folly. It does not happen.”

    I accept that. Similarly, in India, “It does not happen.”

    Why do you have a problem with that?

    Yes. Sharma killed Australia in Perth. There is nothing in the cricket rules that suggest that Cameron White cannot kill India in Delhi! Good luck to him if he does.

    Now this is what I believe needs to happen.

    I do believe India needs to prepare a few fast, bouncy and seaming wickets for its local competition (Ranji, Irani, etc). This will prepare the team for when it visits Australia, England and South Africa. India has prepared a few fast, bouncy and pacy wickets! Mohali was one of them. Australia lost there.

    Similarly, Australia needs to prepare a few Delhi-like spinning tracks for the Sheffield Shield. This will promote the development and unearthing of good spinners. It will also foster the development of batting technique against good spin.

    Yes, my “own cricketing compatriots have suggested that India’s home wickets need to be more “global” for want of a better word to aid India’s travelling results.”

    And that’s what’s happened. India has become a better traveller. India has had to become a better traveller.

    However, I refuse to yield to an argument that suggests that a “spinning” track is a “doctored” track. A spinning track in India or Sr Lanka is a reflection of the local soil and environmental conditions. No wonder India and Sri Lanka produce good spinners and batsmen who can play spin. There is nothing wrong with that, just as there is nothing wrong with left-handers or off-side play! Spin, left-handed play and the off-drive are all allowed in cricket!

    There is a compelling desire for “sameness” in this world. It is a cancer that needs to be eradicated. And that commences by re-educating and re-training the parrots! 🙂

    — Mohan

  13. Yes, everything should be interpreted from an Indian perspective. Otherwise it’s not impartial.

    Another good one Mohan!

  14. Mohan,

    P Kumar

    How could you forget this 22 year old from UP and Bangalore Rotals that took 10 wkts in 4 VB Series ODIs against OZ–bowling snake balls

    Praveen Kumar, that is

    I never mentioned that I am spin or spinner hater–I belong to that brotherhood

    Incidentally Venkat and Kumble do not belong in that elite company

    Venkat bowled lower trajectory straigh spinning or off breaks

    Venkat kept out EAR from playing more tests–selectors to blame

    Kumble–like B S Chandrasekhar belongs to an in between spinning and fast bowling category

    Medium pace straight spinning or googly bowlers

  15. Well, they were all great spinners and great pace bowlers. Kumble is different. And I reckon Ajantha Mendis will get there too, one day! They are all different and that’s what makes spin such a terrific sight to watch. And there is no better sight in cricket than a batsman dancing down the wicket to smother the spin or hit an off-drive. It would be a shame to buckle into the the “doctors” who want to kill spin with their spin-doctoring — pun totally intended 🙂

  16. JB,

    It is not an Indian perspective. There are enough Indians out there that say that India should not prepare spinning pitches and should have lively pitches. This is a hopeless argument.

    Playing spin well is as much an important skill as playing fast bowling and to call it doctored just because it is spinning is pointless. It is not about Australian pitches alone, one could point out English pitches and NZ pitches too. I don’t remember anyone calling the pitches in New Zealand doctored when India toured in 2002 and both games were a lottery. If batsmen can’t cope with quality bowling on good spinning wickets why is that bad for the spectators. I enjoy watching the spinners deceive the batsmen as much as I enjoy watching batsmen score runs.

    And Sampath, everyone knows who P. Kumar is but what we don’t get is how Mr. Sharma is keeping P. Kumar away by creating a pitch tailor made for Kumble. I thought t his whole argument is about Mishra and if we are talking about pacy wickets, the next person in line is RP Singh. P. Kumar is not even in the test match picture right now! Oh BTW, match fixing is if Mr. Sharma says he is preparing a fast pitch, then creates a spinning pitch and everyone involved makes money on it. To give out his intent a full week before the game starts and give the Aussies time to adjust is NOT match fixing!

  17. Mohan,

    You are right

    Sharma doesn’t indulge in doctoring the pitch

    His brief is to engineer an Indian win!!

  18. Arguing just for the sake of arguing… crazyy..

  19. Mohan, you are spot on. There is scant difference in saying that “the pitch is a gift for Kumble” in India from “this pitch will take pace and bounce” in Australia. Both statements imply that the pitches have been tailor made to suit the home teams strengths. The only difference is that one of the statements is structured so that it can appear to be impartial (when the context in which it is contructed in is absent) whereas the other is direct and to the point i.e. the pitch has been made to suit the home teams strengths, in particular, it will suit Kumble.

    The honesty is refreshing in this world of diplomatic double-speak, plausible deniability and generalist cover.

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