Cricket should avoid tracks like Eden Gardens

As India took control of the second Test, the debate on Sunday centered more on the nature of the Eden Gardens track rather than the quality of cricket.

India have a history of making underprepared wickets, leaving the top soil loose so that spinners come into play as early as the first day itself. What is unusual is to get a track where the ball is not spinning but its bounce is so unpredictable and dual-paced that it can endanger the limbs of the batsmen. That is what Eden has turned into, the cracks on the track probably wide enough to let the ball either rear up abruptly or keep so low that the batsmen can’t get the bat down in time to avoid it hitting the stumps or pads.

It was at its worst behaviour on the third day, especially in the first half, when the New Zealand bowlers had Shikhar Dhawan jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof. Even Ajinkya Rahane found the going tough like the New Zealand batsmen on the second evening against the India pacers.


Contrast these images to the dismissal of Virat Kohli, who got a ball that appeared glued to the ground even after pitching. When a wicket has such unpredictable bounce, which even surprises the bowler, it has to be classified as dangerous, if not a disgrace.

The argument in favour of making tracks that help the bowlers and speeds up a decision in Test cricket is a healthy one. Nothing excites a viewer more than watching a batsman use his skills to counter a rampaging bowler on a helpful track.

India have used this home advantage, like most countries do, to make spinning tracks and create an aura of invincibility around them. But there has to be a limit to the extent a team should use home advantage. That is the reason why there is a clamour for doing away with the toss and letting the visiting team decide whether to bat or bowl.

During the series against South Africa, India made viciously-turning tracks that made batsmen look lost in a haze as if a dust storm had ravaged them. The Nagpur track in that series was so “treacherous” that the ICC had to censure it, despite it being the home ground of BCCI president Shashank Manohar.

No one is contesting a home team’s right to make tracks to suit its strengths. It is the uneven bounce and extreme turn that makes contests so lop-sided that it goes against the spirit of the game.

In Kolkata, the problem with the wicket is of a different kind. The surface, which has been newly-laid, did not probably get enough sun or wasn’t rolled enough, which is making it dangerous for batsmen.

When some balls rear up nastily and others keep exceedingly low, it is time to do something about it, rather than wait and risk a serious injury to a batsman.


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