GAME PLAN: The old and new of international cricket

Jaideep Ghosh

South-Africa-India-Test-CricketAmazing how wins and good situations can gloss over problems. It is human psyche, one assumes, that when something is looking good on the surface, there is no real need to try to iron out obvious creases.

When South African skipper Hashim Amla was asked about the pitch at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium in Jamtha, just outside Nagpur, where they are now playing India in the third Test of the series, Amla was everything a diplomat should be.

He didn’t criticise the strip hammer and tongs. Instead he said words to the effect that it was a good pitch, so long as you were the home side.

Nothing wrong with that at all. After all, being the home side should have benefits. Never mind if the proceedings become boring, truncated non-events.

I mean, how many real cricket fans wouldn’t pay good money to go see a big, tall fast bowler come steaming in and make the batsmen jump? Are we to understand that cricket fans want to see two teams in a wrestling contest on a strip of land that is broken and dusty even before a ball has been bowled?

There is a time for spinners and the circle of fielders around the batsman but the afternoon of Day One isn’t that time. Just the thought that this game too will not see five days is a depressing thought for those who want to see real cricket.

It seems that the think tank, under the able leadership of Ravi Shastri, has decided to take the ‘home’ truths to the same ridiculous levels of the middle and late 1980s and beyond, where all the Indian spinners needed to win matches was to look at the rivals in anger.

Harbhajan-Singh-CricketIndia were unbeatable! All came to the shores and crashed in waves of futility against the likes of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, with lots of bit roles being played by many other bits and pieces spinners.

It always happened that the rivals never really had spinners of that quality, or those numbers. So the series was by and large a one-sided affair where a total of four Test could end in as little as 12 days.

At the same time, the same side went abroad and floundered cluelessly, the batsmen flapping at everything outside the off-stump and top-edging anything short of a full toss. We lost as spectacularly abroad as we won at home.

The same thing is happening again. Our batsmen are struggling to cross 250 – irrespective of the fact that as many as six were deployed in Jamtha on Wednesday, excluding the wicketkeeper.

Playing six or seven batsmen doesn’t guarantee anything. This straggle, which has been made to look good because the South Africans are in far worse situation, will come back to haunt when India are in Australia soon.

But that doesn’t seem to be a worry. Win here. The rest we can always ignore.

But that is what cricket is in India. Instant success and no vision.

One hopes things aren’t as bad this time in Jamtha, and Amla and his boys will put up a decent fight. Their bowlers haven’t done badly at all, now it is up to the skipper to justify his ranking and for the likes of Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers to come to the party and make it a contest at least.

Day-night cricket: While we are discussing past failing and misdeeds of Indian cricket, a new thing will be unveiled in Adelaide on Friday, when Australia take on New Zealand in the third Test of the series.

Must be quite something, to see the first ball being bowled Down Under at around 9.30 a.m., IST. Normally, one has to set the alarm at some ungodly hour to catch the action. This should be a nice change.

What will also be interesting is how everyone approaches this. Several players have expressed caution about how the pink cricket ball would behave and how the lights would affect the match.

Some batsmen think it is difficult to trace the seam on the pink ball, while others have expressed doubts that the bowlers may struggle.

But we are still playing a day-night Test. As long as you can keep an open mind, that could be fun. Even if it isn’t a technically great contest, at least it infuses much-needed fresh ideas into cricket.

A far cry from the old ways of spin and more spin.