The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Our so-called curators are not competent
- Some of the maalis have better practical knowledge

The second Test belonged to New Zealand’s bowlers. After their batsmen occupied the crease for almost half the match, the bowlers built on the advantage putting pressure on the Indian batsmen throughout with accurate bowling, led by Darryl Tuffey and Daniel Vettori.

Tuffey has been a revelation in the two Tests. Although not known for genuine pace like Shane Bond, he demonstrated how a good line and length — corridor bowling — can play a major role even on placid and docile wickets. He kept things simple. He did not try for pace but relied on a nagging line around the off-stump and the subtle movement off the pitch. Accuracy was the key to his success.

As for Vettori, well, he is currently the best left-arm spinner in the world. He relished bowling on Indian surfaces though his figures do not quite reflect his control. And if you thought Vettori was the bowler of the series, don’t forget he saved the match in Motera for New Zealand with the bat! If India could have forced the follow-on in Ahmedabad, the Test could’ve been as good as over.

Indeed, talking of the follow-on, I can see the logic of Stephen Fleming carrying on his first innings on the third morning. In Ahmedabad, Sourav was justified in declaring at 500 for five because he was the home captain and he had the bowlers who knew the conditions like the back of their hands.

In Mohali, Fleming had his own reasons because a touring captain would like to completely make sure he is in a position to enforce the follow-on. Against batsmen at home in familiar conditions, a touring team needs that extra cushion of runs. It nearly worked for Fleming and the game was alive till the final session.

I have no doubt though, that if India had won the toss in Mohali, they would’ve ended as winners. The wicket was perfect for batting on the first two days. I know there has been loads of criticism against India for batting too slowly on the fourth day, but look at it this way.

The New Zealand batsmen adapted to the conditions very quickly with the help of some really batsmen-friendly pitches. Our ground curators contributed a great deal in their success.

Lou Vincent and Mark Richardson made the best use of the wicket and gave a solid base for the ever-improving Scott Styris to come and pitch in with his contribution. Craig McMillan, one of the few who has played Shane Warne with consummate ease, did exhibit his prowess and was aggressive with the Indian bowlers.

I think Zaheer Khan and Laxmipathy Balaji tried too hard for the initial breakthrough and drifted from the basics. There was so little purchase for the spinners on the first two days that Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh had to toil real hard. I am sure the Indian spinners wouldn’t have great memories of this Test.

The Indian batting slipped into extra gear almost immediately, but the pressure of the mammoth total did tell upon them in the end.

Sehwag played a gem of a knock and his partner, the young Akash Chopra, again proved he is here to stay. Sachin Tendulkar didn’t leave any impact in this series and would sure like to make amends in the one-day triangular.

V.V.S. Laxman was regal during his first innings hundred and when he is in such form, the memories of his Eden Gardens knock against the Australians is refreshed over and over again. He stood firm to save the match for India in both innings.

The amount of runs scored in the two Tests suggest the attempt made couple of years ago by the apex body of Indian cricket to upgrade the wickets by relaying them has proved futile. Good sporting wickets are so important to retain interest in Test cricket. Slow and docile wickets like Motera and Mohali will further reduce the already dwindling crowd for Tests.

The need of the hour is to replace ignorant curators with the knowledgeable ones. Otherwise it could prove catastrophic for Test cricket.

Having tried to make them understand the need of good sporting wickets on so many occasions; having told them what changes need to be done on Indian wickets and how the wickets are prepared abroad, it seems all such advice has fallen on deaf ears.

The fact is, the curators concerned are highly incompetent when it comes to understanding of soil mechanics. Some of the maalis (groundsmen) have better practical knowledge than the so-called curators. The bowlers are the sufferers and the whole Indian cricket is the casualty.

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