India’s Wicket Ways Wearing Thin, Waugh, Haddin Claim Referee gave home team a helping hand

Few topics excite an Indian cricket fan more than pointing out their poor record in pitch preparation.

Like it or not, India has a bad reputation in the global cricket community for cropping (not necessarily manipulating) pitches.

And if the Indians really cared about changing that perception, the best thing they could do would be to stop dishing out inferior surfaces like the Indore pitch, which produced 14 wickets on the first day and both teams before lunch on the second day all accounted for.

Australia’s late collapse from 6-11 to go all-out with 197 means they have an 88 lead, which by normal standards is probably worth twice that. Foreign conditions have played a part, but the Aussies have now had four dramatic collapses in just five innings going 6-68 and 10-84 in Nagpur followed by the 8-28 surrender in Delhi.

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The vision of the ball exploding through the top of the Indore surface almost from the start on day one was alarming. The pitch was a little better on day two but still a minefield.

INDORE, INDIA - MARCH 02: Alex Carey of Australia walks away after being sacked by Ravichandran Ashwin of India during day two of the third Test match in the series between India and Australia at Holkare Cricket Stadium on March 02, 2023 in Indore, India became . (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

Alex Carey walks away after being sacked by Ravichandran Ashwin. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

It wasn’t dangerous insofar as it posed a risk of injury, but it did present a significant impediment to any batter’s ability to score runs.

And before any Indian fan gets upset that this is an Aussie whining because the touring crew took floggings in the first two Tests in three days, that’s not the point at all.

India deservedly won both games as they were the better team.

The pitches have always been suitable for the home team’s talented spinners, but that’s the way international cricket should be, or as former Indian captain and coach Ravi Shastri put it in a comment when criticism of the pitch was leveled: ‘home conditions’.

Those two matches lasted only three days for the most part because the Australian batsmen couldn’t man the goal crease – they were either too nervous and played reckless shots, fearing a ball would ‘have their name on it’, or too cautious in defence resulted in them being caught in the crease and rolled over by half-hearted hopeful jabs.

These two wickets were rated average by referee Andy Pycroft, which doesn’t sound good, but it’s actually the third highest rating that can be given out of the six – very good, good, average, below average, poor and unsuitable.

Penalties in the form of minus points, which can result in a venue losing hosting rights, will only be imposed if a place is rated in the bottom three categories.

And bad pitches aren’t unique to India – last summer’s Gabba pitch, which lined the store all over the place, received a sub-par rating, and the MCG was rated poor in 2017 when a swollen wicket was trotted out for an Ashes test, which ended in a tie after just 24 wickets fell over five days.

The standard of the pitch matters in a number of ways.

Poor old Jackson Bird bent his back for 30 wicketless overs during England’s innings and after being dropped for the next match never played a Test again.

India was also on tour at the end of a bad pitch. A similar batting course was set up in Nottingham in 2014 which match umpire David Boon rated as poor – it was such a paradise for runs that England No11 James Anderson hit 81 as he and Joe Root hit a record 196 runs in the last Wicket pitched partnership.

This wicket at Indore will potentially produce a Test that is over well before the five days are up.

Not all tests have to be over the distance or close. We saw last summer, when the West Indies faced Australia in Perth, that a five-day competition can be a snooze feast when there’s a lack of real competition.

And a three-day Test can be exciting when the bowlers get the upper hand and the batsmen have to fight and fight for every run.

But what we saw in Indore is not a fair fight between bat and ball.

The amazing turnaround bowlers pull off on both sides makes some of the best batsmen in the world look like they’ve been hauled out of the European Cricket League, well, not that bad, but you get the idea.

Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium was under-rated for a three-day test against Sri Lanka last year after another rampaging gymnast, but last year’s Ahmedabad pitch, which hosted a two-day affair against England, was considered average.

Broadcasting rights holders pay trillions to beam cricket into devices around the world, but the product gets cheaper when days four and five are often redundant.

And cricket fans don’t get enough either. We do not want to return to our everyday lives prematurely. We selfishly want these “flanneled fools” to provide entertainment on the above devices.

In no other professional sport is the curator so important to the standard of play, and in this case, the Holkar Stadium ground crew let everyone down.

Green Unlucky like Waugh, Haddin raises referee review theory

Cameron Green is unfortunate to be handed out for 21 to an Umesh Yadav delivery who was shown on review to only cut off the top of the leg stump.

Fox Cricket’s Mark Waugh questioned during the innings break whether neutral referee Joel Wilson took into account India’s lack of ratings when making his decision on the field.

“That was bad luck, that was a real turning point. This is probably not the case most days of the week. It was only shown cutting off the top of the stump,” he said of the West Indies veteran’s decision.

“I wonder if the referee thought Australia had criticisms while India didn’t. I’ll leave it to Australia to review but of course it will remain with the referee once issued.

Brad Haddin agreed, saying: “That was a big call, the Cameron Green LBW. If both teams have ratings there, the referee will not release them. It’s disappointing but we’re still up there.”

Handscomb in the hold pattern

Peter Handscomb has fared well in what has been a difficult series for batters, but not enough to ensure he is on the field for Australia’s next Test tour in England.

Handscomb was alert, determined and mostly safe during his 98-ball stay on day two of the third Test.

Although he only scored 19 points related to that match, his 40-run partnership with Green, which soaked up 22 overs, could be worth a lot more than these modest numbers suggest.

The 31-year-old from Victoria is averaging a credible 32 from five innings in that series, highlighted by his unbeaten 72 in Delhi, but has yet to answer the question of whether he’s a subcontinent specialist or worth sticking with for the long haul .

Peter Handscomb of Australia bats.

Peter Handscomb of Australia bats. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

With the jury at odds over whether Travis Head’s future is an opener and doubts growing about David Warner’s chances of ever wearing the wide green cap again, Australia’s selectors will have some to do before June, when they potentially play the World Test Problems solve championship finals and then the ashes.

They have Usman Khawaja as a specific pick as an opener, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Green as medium order locks, but they then have to figure out where Head fits best. If that’s in the mid-range, Handscomb’s chances of retaining his spot beyond this tour will be bleak unless he can get an impactful hit in his last three innings in India.

And if Head isn’t considered an opener, the key question is who is Khawaja’s partner and whether the selectors can justify giving Warner one last chance or stabbing Matt Renshaw, Cameron Bancroft or Marcus Harris. India's Wicket Ways Wearing Thin, Waugh, Haddin Claim Referee gave home team a helping hand

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