Dhoni’s pitch flawed

MS Dhoni wants turn and bounce. From Day One. He might get this in the second Test, on the red soil wicket at the Wankhede, reputed to be one of the bouncier strips in the country. But then again, he might not.

Last year, the Wankhede hosted a Test against the West Indies. After Day Two, R Ashwin said that he felt "cheated" by the lack of bounce. West Indies piled up 590. India scored 482. Such pitches, editorials droned, were driving fans away from Tests. Those who kept faith in Test cricket were rewarded amply on Day Five. The ball behaved in all sorts of odd ways. The West Indies folded for 134. India, needing 243 to win, finished at 242 for nine, in one of Test cricket's great climaxes.

Pitch preparation is far from an exact science. Over five days, pitches change, sometimes gradually, sometimes in one crazy session.

Halfway through the Motera Test, the spinners must have been pleased. They had taken 15 of the 18 wickets that fell in the first two innings. And playing spin would only get harder, you thought.

But the pitch became slower and Alastair Cook played a masterful innings. It was hard to say which was cause and which was effect. But the narrative of the first three days changed. Suddenly, it wasn't the bowlers or the conditions that had caused England's first-innings collapse. It was their own recklessness. Had they batted even a little better, they would have saved the Test match.

Dhoni's ideal home pitch seems to be one that will turn from Day One without deteriorating enough for the toss to make any real difference, and offer consistent bounce throughout. He might be asking for the impossible.

Karthik is a Senior Correspondent based in New Delhi.

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