Rahul Dravid blames turning tracks on rush to reach WTC final

Mar 07, 2023 11:07 PM IST

India's coach says teams are desperate to win at home because it fetches 12 points while a draw means only 4 points in the race to the World Test Championship final

In India, it’s not a good time to be a batter. In the quest to win a place in the World Test Championship final, the home side is preparing rank turners for favourable results against Australia.

Nagpur and Delhi were rated ‘average’ by the ICC Match Referee and Indore was adjudged ‘poor’(Siddharaj Solanki)
Nagpur and Delhi were rated ‘average’ by the ICC Match Referee and Indore was adjudged ‘poor’(Siddharaj Solanki)

Rohit Sharma's side leads the series 2-1, but it has come at a cost for the batters. The pitches have ignited the debate whether they are good for Test cricket. The International Cricket Council (ICC) introduced WTC to provide context to Tests and exciting contests are needed to lift its flagging fortunes. All three Tests have ended inside three days.

Indore, venue of the third Test, was a rank turner that boomeranged on the hosts. Besides, the pitches have not received a good rating. Nagpur and Delhi were rated ‘average’ by the ICC Match Referee and Indore was adjudged ‘poor’.

India coach Rahul Dravid though defended on Tuesday the decision to push for turning tracks, arguing that India can’t be singled out. Bowler-friendly pitches are being rolled out in other countries too to collect more points.

“I won’t go too much into it. The match referee is entitled to make his opinion, share his thoughts on the pitches. Doesn't really matter whether I agree with his readings or not. What I will say is that sometimes with WTC points at stake, you are looking to play on, sometimes, a wicket that produces result. It can happen at times, and not only in India. Across the world you are seeing that; at times it’s difficult to get that balance perfectly right,” he told a news conference after Tuesday’s practice at the Narendra Modi Stadium.

The batters have not openly complained as it is for the team, but it is hurting their careers. There has been only one hundred in this series, by Rohit Sharma in the first Test.

Dravid said: “In the short period I’ve been coach, I’ve seen quite challenging conditions for batsmen. Data and stats prove to us that over the last four-five years it’s been some of the most difficult conditions to bat, all over the world not only in India.”

Such pitches may have cost Ajinkya Rahane his Test career, dropped due to his century drought. Even Cheteshwar Pujara lost his spot before making a comeback.

So, how does one evaluate a batter’s performance on these tracks? Dravid said the conditions are factored in while assessing a player’s contribution.

“It's really about being realistic about what is a good performance on some of the challenging wickets we are playing on. If you look at the last 3-4 years, all over the world wickets have got a lot more challenging. So, you have to be realistic about what the standards are now. Just understanding that in these games one good performance can change the game. We saw that with Rohit, we've seen that many times over. It’s just being realistic in the assessment of our batters, their averages and numbers. Don't really look so much into it.”

Dravid said valuing smaller contributions that make a difference will help batters deal with the tough pitches. “Just backing our batters to understand that these are challenging conditions and they’re the same for both sides. And for them to be able to use it as a challenge and an opportunity to do something special. It might not necessarily be about scoring big double hundreds, but you know scores of 50-60 or 60-70 might be really, really good scores in some conditions.”

Is the race to qualify for the WTC final the reason why the pitches have become challenging worldwide? Dravid pointed out the points India lost when New Zealand hung on for a draw in the 2021-22 Kanpur Test after losing nine wickets in the second innings. “I don’t know, it could be one of the reasons because yes, there is a huge premium on results... I certainly think there’s tough competition all round. Every team is getting results at home or are putting in really good performances, so there is a premium on results. Whether it’s home or away, there’s a definite premium on getting wins in this competition.

“You get four points for a draw and 12 for a win, so there is a premium on that, no question about it.”

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