The Wankhede Pitch Is a Disgrace to the Game and the Nation

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The Wankhede Pitch Is a Disgrace to the Game and the Nation
Gareth Copley/Getty Images
It is but blatantly obvious that a flat track is prepared in anticipation of that 100th hundred.

“Just learnt from a player that it is a very good batting pitch at Wankhede for last test...u know why right? : ),” tweeted Sanjay Manjrekar ahead of the Mumbai Test. But how good is this wicket? No one says it is a good bowling wicket when wickets tumble? If anything the two Tests in South Africa had more Indians glued to it than the three Tests in India have. Good cricket is universally loved. And invariably they happen on wickets where ball battles bat on equal terms. But Wankhede is a disgrace.

Cricket should have no tolerance for vested interests. It is a shame that a wicket is prepared for the obvious. It holds the game and the fans to ransom. It is no less cheating than insider trading. It shows scant respect for the game, and in this case, to Sachin Tendulkar himself. He is his country’s greatest champion and doesn’t need freebies. The man’s childhood and adolescence was Test cricket. He is under pressure to perform. Always. His failures are magnified and studied and speculated. In his time a country limp on wickets abroad learnt it could stand on equal terms with the opposition and even dominate. As a boy he conquered Australia. A generation followed in his footsteps, and it counts among the most respected teams going around today. It is not a coincidence that India's strongest sides have coincided with his times. And now a tailored wicket to help him get to that hundred? That’s the biggest insult his home board has heaped on him yet.

From the times when French women bunted wooden objects with a log of wood 800 years ago, batsman have been in the ascendancy. Restrictive rules: under-arm, round-arm, field restrictions and so on have limited the bowlers. But, always, they have come through with a solution. If not for those ingenious minds that propelled cricket we would still be playing under-arm cricket. Bless John Willes and Edgar Wellsher for daring to bowl over-arm and change the game forever. Googlies, swing and reverse-swing ensued. So have doosras, but still bowlers are not given their due. Bigger bats, restrictive field placements and dodgy laws impede bowlers. A bent arm is cheating and an extra bouncer unbecoming of a gentleman. There are more restrictions than American immigration checks. And now these dead wickets.

It is difficult to imagine a more batsman-friendly era than this: protective gear, ordinary bowling, flat wickets, big bats and small boundaries. Perhaps only the 1940s can count to be its equal with an insane amount of runs being scored. Routinely 600s would be replied with 700s resulting in run feasts, dull draws, inflated records and poor cricket. It is often the case today barring the results.

The quality of the bowlers coming through is a case for concern for the health of the game. Hardly a corrective measure is taken to address it on a global scale. Wickets to suit home teams are as old as the game itself, but it serves little purpose. The game is more important. It is meant to be a battle of equals—of bowlers bluffing batsmen with spin, dip, guile and scary pace and batsmen responding with restraint, judgment, courage and great skill. Alas, it is often not the case.

State cricket associations in India prepare wickets to their fancy and their hour of need: Weaker oppositions are welcomed with under-prepared tracks in the hope of full points and stronger teams with flat decks to rule out a result. The system is as corrupt as some of the others in the country. Cruelly, must-win games for home sides finish in less than three days. And now one cries foul or is there an honest body to prevent this? Happily the body that runs cricket in India is more worried about television rights and even television production. All they want from its state associations are their votes. The game can cop all it wants, but it is only worried about its commercial interests. No empire stands the test of time. Neither will the BCCI.

Wankhede is a disgrace. They have sold cricket and a nation short. And disrespected Tendulkar.

This is a published article in The CouchExpert

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