New Delhi: Normally, post match press conferences are a big bore and a total pain. Players treat them as duty, a strain they have to endure because the ICC has mandated they show up to meet the media. Which is why, quite often, the juniormost player is dispatched to the media room, only to utter inanities in response to banal questions.
Sometimes, however, there is sparkle and spice in these dreadfully dull events. This was the case when skipper Dhoni, victorious after crushing Cook's team, took the mike at Ahmadabad the other day. He first played himself in by sticking to the orthodox and praising Pujara and Ojha, and then, the formalities done, changed gears to go into over drive and launch a bitter attack.
The object of his deep ire was the Motera wicket, described by Dhoni as too slow, without bounce or assistance for his spinners.
But, push the pause button for a moment: Did not India make 500 plus and defeat England by a huge margin. Why slam the wicket?
Dhoni, the imperious captain, also dictated the policy on wickets going forward. We want pitches, thundered the usually mild mannered skipper, that turn from ball one.
Meaning: India should produce dust bowls to exploit its home advantage, play on tracks that suit spinners, and if matches end within 3 days so be it.
Dhoni's rant about the wicket, and his policy diktat, is bizarre despite the agreed principle that host nations will play to its strengths. Certainly no country will be generous to the extent of providing conditions that assist the visiting team.
While that is given, Dhoni flying off the handle after a resounding test win is more than a bit odd. One, it is not Dhoni's style to go ballistic, he is known to be unflappable and unflustered, someone who measures his words with care and is never over the top.
So, the question asked is: has Dhoni's carefully constructed wall of serene composure developed a crack? Has Dhoni's patience left him in the face of sustained criticism of late? Put simply: are things getting too hot for Captain Cool?
There is more to Dhoni's take on wickets than his personal position or the team's preferences. Yes, India will play on pitches that help spinners. Yes, there will be the temptation of picking an eleven that has an additional slow bowler (Bhajji)and leave the new ball to one (only Umesh Yadav?).
But India does not need to manufacture pitches that are akharas which turn square. Motera showed we have the capacity to play, and win, on tracks that support batsmen (which is why the 500 plus score) and yet dismiss the struggling English batsmen twice to win a game.
The opposition to pitch engineering, proposed by Dhoni as a counter terror measure because England and Australia apparently acted in a similar treacherous manner, is at many levels .
One, it diminishes cricket. If a 5 day match ends within 3, cricket is damaged and fans feel cheated. Everyone wants a contest, not a complete mismatch.
Two, it reveals a certain lack of faith in Indian spinners. Is Dhoni suggesting that Ojha and Ashwin are not good enough to bowl the opposition out. Not to forget a certain Harbhajan sitting on the bench who has 400 test wickets against his name.
Three, the argument that other countries present totally adverse condition when India goes on tour, is spurious. England and Australia did not make designer wickets to beat India, what we got were normal pitches and normal conditions, those were not doctored or deliberately created. India just could not cope with conditions that challenged them, played poorly, looked inadequate and hence paid the price.
Indian cricket is not played on dusty turners that turn square from ball one. The BCCI has only recently ruled strongly against such wickets, and given instructions that Ranji wickets have to be fair, with reasonable bounce and pace.
To now suddenly do a u-turn, and fall back on spin only tracks would be retrograde, a step back.
Note: The author's views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of NDTV.
Story first published on: Wednesday, 21 November 2012 17:32 IST