In Defense Of Doctoring Home Pitches

Graeme Smith never forgets. Asked whether he expected Calcutta’s pitch to behave as Kanpur’s did, he replied:

“So are you telling me there’s a guy with a rake at the Eden Gardens? India have more control over the conditions. We need to focus on the specifics…prepare and execute our gameplans.”

Right on cue, the Kolkata curator said a mysterious voice on the telephone — call it Deep Throat — asked for a “turner,” even though the BCCI promptly disavowed any claims.

But why? As Smith said, India have more control over the conditions, and that’s how it should be. Even in other sports, the home versus away tag always poses a disadvantage to visiting teams (partisan crowds, for instance). But in cricket, the role of fate and chance plays a much bigger role. We have different types of pitches (which makes winning the toss unbelievably important), the weather (clouds can produce swing, e.g.), rules that forbid substitutions (as India rued in Nagpur), the concept of the draw (a result was just not meant to be…).

For years, India prospered at home because its cricketers played on its kind of pitches — low, dusty tracks that hurt spinners. That meant — and still means, some argue — that when Indians tour abroad, the barrage of fast bouncy tracks cut them in half. Again, there’s nothing unfair in all of this; actually, it’s one of the chief qualities of cricket (local conditions vary vastly, allowing for different cultures to produce their own versions of the game).

So, take a rake to the pitch. And say you took a rake to the pitch. It’s not our job, as the hosts, to cater to the visitors. If the South Africans believe in their squad — and in Paul Harris — a spinning track may suit them after all.

One thought on “In Defense Of Doctoring Home Pitches

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