Don’t even think about complaining about flat pitches

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3 minute read

Because you can’t fully assess a five-day pitch on day one. Besides, Gautam Gambhir was dismissed by one that kept low. Virender Sehwag was bowled by one that spun. This looks like a result wicket.

A win for India then?

Well, yeah, probably. They’re favourites anyway and batting first hasn’t harmed their cause. Nor has Virender Sehwag.

That’s not the point though. This is about England fans and media (hopefully not the players) moaning about conditions. The fact is, these are the conditions the team knew they were going to face and they have to find a way of dealing with them. That’s kind of the point of an overseas cricket tour. It’s kind of the point of cricket.

So how are England going to deal with day one conditions?

Differently, we’d hazard. There are only so many ways of taking wickets on day one of a Test in India. You want to exploit as many as possible and you want to be very clear which method you’re focusing on at any given moment. That hasn’t entirely looked the case today – although you do have to take into account the fact that Sehwag tends to skew a scorecard.

What have you got to work with on day one? Spinners aren’t likely to run through a side early in a match, but they can usually find something to work with. For quicker bowlers, the ball sometimes swings a bit, there might well be some reverse swing later on, pace is always good, or you can simply bowl defensively and pray the run-rate brings a wicket.

Is every bowler doing a job?

England have opted for one attacking spinner and three seam bowlers, but it seems they lost sight of their reasoning and stuck with their conclusions. Steven Finn would have brought a day one wicket-taking dimension to England’s attack through pace. On current evidence, Tim Bresnan brings very little.

Bresnan’s reputation is that he is a good reverse swing bowler, but today his pace has been around 80mph and below. It’s generally accepted that you need to bowl at least in the mid-eighties (the speed, not the year – unless you’re Imran Khan) to generate effective reverse swing, in which case Bresnan isn’t really adding anything to the attack other than (expensive) overs.

Don’t even think about complaining about team selection

Whoever’s playing, England have to work with that and find a way. Sometimes Test cricket is about racking up monster scores and then blowing the opposition away with the ball, but it’s at its best when we see what players and teams are really made of; when things aren’t going their way.

Heads can drop and efforts can wane when it’s a bad day. But sometimes the difference between victory and defeat lies in making terrible days merely bad, rather than in the headline performances which secure victory later in the match

An example

One of the most lauded performances in the history of cycling was Stephen Roche’s ride to La Plagne in the 1987 Tour de France. He finished fifth.

Roche rode most of the stage on his own, ahead of the other riders, but he was caught and then overtaken by the foot of the final slope. He had  lost 90 seconds to the overall race leader, Pedro Delgado, midway up that climb, but somehow closed that gap to just four seconds by the finish. He then passed out.

As rides go, it was an exercise in damage limitation, but it was hugely meaningful damage limitation because Roche eventually won the Tour de France by 40 seconds. He regained a minute in a time trial, but no-one ever talks about that. People talk about what he did on the day things didn’t go his way. England take note.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Interesting observation there, KC. Bowlers tend to forget that they (and all the rest) are operating in a space-time continuum, and not just in space. Swinging the ball in space is good, but batsmen pick up on that after a while. Also not all of space is conducive to swinging. But temporal swinging is a whole new monster. Imagine Sehwag standing there looking closely at the incoming delivery only to realize that it had uprooted his off-stump thirty seven minutes ago. That’ll crush a batsman. That’ll crush him for sure.

  2. Yup. Excuse making for things like pitches and team selection tends to give you a reason not to try your hardest

  3. I think the problem is expectation. The players know they are playing in India and bring all their preconceptions about playing there with them. They should have given the team a glass of spiked milk back in the UK and flown them over while unconscious. Add an artfully produced Capricorn One style hoax and perhaps they could fool the team into thinking they’re playing at Edgbaston or Trent Bridge.

    1. Have you been to India?

      There is no way in a million years you could ever prevent someone from knowing they were there.

    1. Lawrence of India, the cricket colonialist gone native. That will surely be a thing. You sure he isn’t in India already, sipping gin and tonic in the ladies’ pavilion at the gymkhana looking exquisite in his cream flannels?

    2. He wouldn’t have been noticed if his bestial roars were drowned by the roar of the crowd. If there was a crowd, that is.

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