Will India vs South Africa have a spin track again?
If you don't water the pitch enough leading up to the match, you'll have another spin-ready surface in Bangalore on Saturday just like Mohali, writes Aakash Chopra
If the game had gone into the fifth day, you wouldn't have called it a bad pitch' 'I don't remember a single ball turning square or jumping from a good length. There were too many soft dismissals.' 'When the Test match gets over inside three days in England, it's due to our incompetence in playing swing-seam.
Ravichandran Ashwin bowls during practice session on the eve of the second Test match against South Africa in Bangalore yesterday. Pic/AFP
When the Test match gets over in three days in India, it's because of a bad pitch' These were some of the things that Captain Kohli said in the press conference after the first Test match. He was clearly unhappy about the questions raised with regards to the quality of the pitch offered for the first Test match and he was right. Yes, the pitch assisted spinners from the first session of the first day but not even a single ball misbehaved. It was indeed a spinner-friendly surface but not a pitch that was 'doctored' to skew the balance completely in bowlers' favor.
A 'doctored' pitch
There was a Test match against Australia in 2014 at the Ferozshah Kotla. The variable bounce for pacers from the identical spot was about 20 cms. For spinners the ball not only turned square but also jumped or stayed low unexpectedly. I remember an Australian batsman fending off a ball from Jadeja that spat from the good length. Now, that's a pitch, which is not suitable for Test cricket, for even though it was helping bowlers, they also didn't have an idea about how the ball was likely to behave after pitching. Batting was more about luck than skill. Was it like that in Mohali? I see your head nodding in disagreement.
The pitch demanded proper Test match skills to counter the conditions but, unfortunately, that's becoming an endangered species. Not many batsmen have the requisite technique or temperament to fight out the tough sessions. Something that was highlighted by Ricky Ponting in the last Ashes, for batsmen from both teams crumbled with a hint of prodigious swing-seam.
Formula for Bangalore
Well, I'm not expecting any deviation in Team India's strategy for the second Test match too. Traditionally the pitch at Bangalore has helped seamers more than spinners, for there's always a little bit of grass for the faster bowlers to extract sideways movement. Also, the bounce is slightly on the higher side at this venue. While there's nothing can be done about the bounce, grass can always be clipped to provide a completely barren surface and if you don't water it enough leading up to the match, you'll have another spin-ready surface. And now, Gurkeerat Singh Mann's inclusion is hinting at a pitch quite similar to Mohali and Mann to play the role of the 6th batsman/5th bowler.
Word of caution
South Africans are good tourists because they know how to bounce back and it's imperative not to give them an inch. The prolonged spell of pace by India on the 2nd morning was a tactic that should be shelved with immediate effect. Similarly, Amla needs to reassess his resources. What Kohli did on the 2nd morning, Amla repeated on the 3rd morning and that allowed India to post a winning score.
While South Africa's strength is pace, it's prudent for them to redo the math and put the faith in your premier spinner — Tahir. As it turned out, off-spinner Harmer bowled not only longer spells but also a lot more than the leggie. Kohli's insistence on playing on result-oriented tracks would mean that it's do or die for South Africa, for if India wins the second, it'll be India's Test series. There's a reason why not many teams have managed to win two consecutive Tests in India!