Friday, October 14, 2016

India vs New Zealand - Was it Fair?

And so, our humble Kiwi's failed to take off in India, hopes ruined completely by the two Ravis - Ashwin and Jadeja.  The Black Caps found themselves playing on moon surfaces, with the odd exception of a very New Zealand style pitch engineered to turn the underrated Bhuvi Kumar into a swinging menace. 

3-0 later it all begs the question, is it honestly fair that India is allowed to doctor their wickets to suit them?

The answer is, yes, why the hell not.

There is nothing wrong with home advantage, in fact it enhances the game. Winning overseas should be a big deal, the opposition should be walking into a cauldron of alien conditions and jeering home crowds. Victory on foreign soil should be special.

"Definitely a hint of turn out there today".  ©

This is what made India's drawn 2003 series in Australia so fascinating, then later Australia's 2004 victory in India described as if conquering "the final frontier", near impossible tasks made any shot at victory so compelling. 

India has to exorcise their seaming wicket demons, a subject previously clueless about (poor Tendulkar aside). Anil Kumble had to mine all day tirelessly to extract wickets, Jason Gillespie had to turn in an inspired fast bowling performance on pitches catered for spin. 

Yes we have padded home averages, suddenly Ashwin is a better bowler than Warne and Murali combined we're told. Kohli and Pujara, so hopeless in England, are racking up tons and double tons. Sir Jadeja is the worlds deadliest all-rounder, "The Complete Player" the post-match coverage proudly blares.  

Uh huh.  © 

Take these guys to face Jimmy Anderson in his backyard, and things get pretty ugly, but as before, why not? Averages level out, and that is the cost of building a home town team as India were in the 90s.  If you don't adapt, you perish, and fair enough. 

Then how did India climb to number one on the rankings? While a brilliant South African side sits on 5th? Does #1 in the ICC rankings truly mean number one?  Not if the cards aren't dealt fairly all over the world, and therein lies the issue, only India get to play doctor it seems. 

Remember what happened when they toured New Zealand in 2001-02? A spectacular series where tests couldn't reach three days, and ODI innings couldn't hit 50 overs.  Sourav Ganguly and his men let their opinions rip, and next time they came to town around we duly delivered them roads.

What was wrong with New Zealand favouring their own strengths? It was a fascinating series where we appreciated quality swing bowling, and the rare dogged batting that countered it. Shane Bond was near unplayable. Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Javagal Srinath finally had bowling conditions to work with. Rahul Dravid described his 76 in Wellington as one of the best innings of his career. 76, not 276. An inspired Virender Sehwag didn't seem to care at all and clubbed centuries in a series where sometimes 20 was gold.

It was certainly weird cricket, it was nothing like the 'norm' that popular opinion later dictated. But that didn't make it any less fascinating. Had India won that series, they would rightfully have stood tall, just as New Zealand would have if they managed to win this series. There was nothing wrong with a thumping then, and there is nothing wrong with it now.

Instead, we stand in a situation where New Zealand's green seamers are long gone, nobody is scared of touring the West Indies, even Perth has become a flat joke. Other than (perhaps) English conditions, it's become about who can stand and slog the longest. 

It's wasteful to throw away an intriguing element of the game, variety should be embraced not wrested away because one cricketing board says so. A tragic shame, and an unnecessary dilution to our game.

A couple of final musings:
  • What happened to excessive appealing, does the law even exist anymore? The last guy who tried to do anything about it was Mike Denness way back in 2001, and got his officiating career destroyed for his troubles.
  • How does Sir Jadeja get away with *deliberately* tampering the pitch with a fine equal to 2 minutes of endorsement work? Oh, they handed NZ five runs, I guess...
  • In those few occasions New Zealand were fighting along admirably, what do you call the laughable accusation of the 'deliberate drinks breaks' tactics?

Those dastardly cheats.

Throw away the spirit of the game when things go against the script? 

Onwards to more maulings then, Bangledesh next, in a series promised to be fascinatingly ugly.