Sunil Gavaskar: Australian attitude towards India and its pitches never changes

After the Indore Test match finished in less than three days, there was a hue and cry in the Australian media about the pitches in India. Whenever the Australian team has toured India, even before a ball is bowled, there will be articles about the perceived hardships, etc. that the team will have to face. There will be talk about hotels, travel, food, etc. and then, of course, the pitches. It’s making excuses ready for the defeats to follow.

Over the last 60-plus years, only three Australian teams have emerged victorious in a Test series in India. The last time it happened was way back in 2004, when, thanks to a grassy pitch in Nagpur, India lost the game and, with it, the series. Mind you, nobody from their media then said a word about how the pitch was more suited for the Australian bowlers than the Indian attack. There was not a word of praise for the curator who had made that pitch, but when they lost the next Test match in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, there was huge hullabaloo created about the pitch. The real issue is that the Australians are so used to playing on flat pitches that the moment the ball starts to turn a bit, their batters are exposed. Apart from a few, they simply don’t have the technique and skill set to adjust their game to the requirements of a non-flat pitch. Very few Australian batters have scored hundreds in India and only those who have got multiple hundreds can be called great batters.

To score tons in Australia is no big deal, especially since the use of the Kookaburra ball, which stops swinging and seaming after a dozen overs or so. The smart batters know that it’s a matter of surviving the first hour or less before the ball loses its hardness and the pitch eases out to be a batting paradise. There’s always talk about the bounce in Australia, but great batters will overcome that, and once the quick bowlers have had their first spells, it’s simply runs to be taken for the batters.

On the other hand, in India, where there is turn for the spinners, it’s far more difficult to score the hundreds. Sure, nobody wants to see a game finishing in three days, but would you rather have a game like the last Test match where the first innings of both teams finished only towards the end of the fourth day’s play? That’s hardly fair on the bowlers of both teams who bowled and bowled and toiled hard for every wicket. Ashwin’s six wickets showed his craftiness but even he would agree that it was extremely hard work.

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After the Indore pitch was docked three demerit points by the ICC, I questioned how many demerit points the pitch for the Australia and South Africa match in Brisbane’s Gabba ground got in the game that finished under two days there? The pitch was lightning fast and the ball flew dangerously past the batters. It’s a miracle that nobody was seriously hurt though it was obvious that no batter really wanted to stay long at the crease. On the other hand a pitch where the ball turns is only a danger to the batter’s technique and statistics. In response, the excuse was that “the curator at the Gabba just got it wrong. He left too much grass on the pitch but in a way it didn’t favour either side. It would have favoured the South African seamers just as much as the Australian pacers because they’ve got four very good seamers.

So I don’t think there was any skullduggery going on at the Gabba. I think with Indore, I hope I can say the same thing here, but what happened there, the pitch was so poorly prepared it actually made the game a bit more of a lottery which didn’t favour India at all. It probably brought Australia’s spin bowlers into the game a lot more than they thought it was going to.” These are the comments of Mark Taylor, former Australian captain and a very respected voice in the game.

Look at the condescension. The curator at the Gabba got it wrong, but there could have been skullduggery in Indore. The Gabba pitch didn’t favour any side as the South Africans also had four seamers. Excuse me, how many spinners did Australia have in Indore? Three. Exactly the same number as India and not to count the off-spin of Travis Head and the leg-spin of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, who have more Test wickets than any other occasional Indian spinner apart from Ashwin, Jadeja and Axar Patel. So if anything Australia had more spinning ammunition than India and went on to win the game.

I have been around the international game for a bit and have seen these excuses about them getting it wrong, but us being scheming. So if an English or Australian umpire got it wrong in the days gone by, then it was human error but if an Indian umpire got it wrong then it was deliberate and cheating.

It’s too much to expect from the Aussie cricket media, which is only interested in headlines and sales but hopefully the ex-players there will look around and see what Indian cricket is doing to some of their kind with coaching and support staff contracts.

You might not win a series in India, but at least don’t make enemies with stupid, condescending attitude and comments.

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