While spin talk dominated the build-up to the India-England Test series, the focus has clearly shifted to the pitches for the remaining two Tests in the series.
It is quite evident that the curators are under tremendous pressure to dish out a turner from Day One, which India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni
wants. Someone like Prabir Mukherjee, the Eden Gardens curator, is yet to come to terms with Dhoni’s demand. First, he was sidelined in the preparation of the wicket for the third Test, and on Saturday, Mukherjee asked for a month’s leave just four days before the Kolkata Test. But later on, after Jagmohan Dalmiya’s intervention, Mukherjee agreed to continue.
Kishore Pradhan, who was one of the few curators who defied pressure and prepared a ‘sporting’ track during the 2004 India-Australia Test at Nagpur’s Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium, said curators should not be put under extreme pressure. “He (Mukherjee) must have got scared about the establishment and that is why he has gone on leave. It is not correct to put the curators under so much pressure that they fear doing their job properly,” former VCA curator Pradhan told SUNDAY MiD DAY.
Pradhan (72), now a retired bank officer, added: “No one should interfere or indulge in their (curators) work as they are the best people to know about the wicket. I don’t understand why the focus is so much on the wicket.” Pradhan prepared a green top that assisted pace and bounce as Australia made most of the conditions to crush India by 342 runs to take a 2-0 lead after three Tests. Adam Gilchrist’s team won the series 2-1.
“I prepared a ‘sporting’ wicket as per the ICC and the BCCI guidelines. The then VCA president, Shashank Manohar, agreed that we should prepare a wicket that would provide an even contest between bat and ball. Manohar and Board president (Jagmohan) Dalmiya were at loggerheads then,” recalled Pradhan, who was on the BCCI’s pitch and grounds committee from Central Zone from 2007 to 2009.
Pradhan felt the curators are succumbing to pressure because they are on the Indian board’s payroll. “Almost all curators are employed by the Board. So, they have to oblige in whatever way they can. I prepared a pitch that was best for the game. Otherwise, how will our young players learn to play on wickets, which have pace and bounce? The ‘home advantage’ clause in the ICC guidelines should be removed as it gives the hosts a possibility to eliminate an even contest. Today, Test cricket needs sporting tracks instead of rank turners,”he concluded.