‘Highway’ pitches not the right way

After Maharashtra made 738/5 at the end of Day Two, the BBM outburst of a UP pacer summed up the visiting team's frustration: "Has Maharashtra Cricket Association hired the (Mumbai-Pune) Expressway contractor to prepare its pitch?" With 12,224 runs being scored in Round Two of the Ranji games, bowlers on the domestic circuit were a disgruntled lot.

Domestic circuit's Tier II, under-25 CK Nayudu tournament to be specific, was no different. Pacers were not getting 'carry', spinners didn't see turn. A week back, at Rajkot, Vidarbha declared at 733 for 8 while Mumbai scored 612 for 9 at home.

In the aftermath of Team India's twin debacle in England and Australia, the BCCI, before the start of the season, asked its units to prepare 'sporting pitches'. The pitch committee was given a brief to prepare tracks that aided bowlers and didn't conspire with batsmen to facilitate drab draws. Round One games showed things were falling in place. Nine out of 12 captains choose to field and there were some thrilling wins for teams. It seemed a watershed season was about to unfold. But the optimism was short-lived. Hope lies buried in the run piles that have risen across the country during the last four days.

The latest initiative, like several others that the BCCI pitch experts have floated over the years, lacked vision. Suggestions to play the game at 'neutral venues' and on 'uncovered pitches' too have been tried but that didn't meaningless run marathons.

Maybe, BCCI needs to take a fresh look at this stale problem. And for that it needs to look beyond old hands that have tended to the playing surfaces for years now. Pitches committee chairman Daljit Singh has been fighting a losing battle to spice up the tracks on the domestic circuit for the over two decades now. While other members, Sudhir Naik and Dheeraj Prasanna, have been there for 10 years . The battle between curators of the state association and BCCI too is no secret. Maybe it's time the BCCI took some tough calls to to save these anemic contests.

... contd.

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