Kachra Khelega!

If Federer beats Djokovic (or vice a versa or for that matter any combination of top 4 players on the circuit) in straight sets in a final at Wimbledon, how many of us will blame the grass for the lopsided encounter? How many of you Federer fans have blamed the clay of Roland Gaross for his record there? For eons, whenever the track was wet, the Prancing Horse with a German Jockey cruised to chequered flags — how many drivers and fans blamed him for making it rain? I presume the answer to this is a very low number; then based on that, how is everyone with access to 140 characters and more, blaming the pitches in India? If this was a surprise to anyone — that the pitches will assist the spinners more, which apart from Nagpur they weren’t, well, then they have been in a coma or are too biased.

Let us see some comments in light of the first paragraph;
Spin bowling is like a software, if you don’t try and upgrade it, you will fall by the wayside. — R Ashwin
Software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster. — Wirth’s Law [Consider bats and boundary lengths as hardware and speed as relative easy-ness]
James Anderson believes that Alistair Cook robbed him of a test hundred at Abu Dhabi

We have had enough instances by now to prove that South-Africa or for that matter the countries blessed with fast bowling talent have not prepared the same types of pitches against opponents worthy of dishing out what the host nation throws at the opposition. Secondly, whenever they have, the scores have been similar to what we saw in this series, if not lower.

Alongside the Nagpur test, another test match was underway with supposedly and rightfully, larger number of eyeballs. Merits & demerits of the pink ball aside, that test too ended in three days. But all the talk from down under and over above was how absolutely thrilling it was. So, in conclusion, if I take the word of all the ‘experts’ who are not here to watch the action and are reacting through and from news reports, then, low scoring test matches on Australian, South-African, or English pitches, when fast bowlers have taken most of the wickets are more exciting than ones on subcontinent pitches where spinners have taken the same amount. Are we, or a faction of the cricketing world treating the spinners as untouchables? Will we soon need a politically correct term for spinners?

These days, like at the fag end of the last millennium, it has become quite customary to expect an Indian number three to walk in to bat within the first three overs. The choice of opening with Shikhar Dhawan or Rohit Sharma is like playing Russian Roulette, and together those (the choices) are the perfect antithesis of MSD’s take on the manner of a test series loss {When you die, you die, You don’t think what is the best way of dying}. Shikhar Dhawan by that standard didn’t disappoint — his consistency has been remarkable. Rohit’s inconsistency has been a worry more for everyone else except him, leading to a lot of hair loss through tearing than wear. Equally ubiquitous have been the rants against Indian pitches.

They say, the best way to play a perfect outswinger is to not, and the best way to play spin is with your bat — if batsmen from one side couldn’t do these things then, it seems, the best way to lay blame is to curse the pitch. The heartbreaking part is that we don’t hear or read anyone ranting when fast bowlers run through sides, because pace with sledging and attempting to hit the batsmen is apparently ‘exciting cricket’. If you are expecting pitches in the subcontinent to not assist spinners, you might as well also go to Australia expecting sportsman spirit.

In the fourth and final test, played at Kotla, the Indian batting line-up responded in style to some delightfully good fast bowling by a second string South-African bowling unit. It wasn’t the case when it went the other way round. Indian fast bowling was just as good on a pitch that was holding quite true, and so was the spin bowling. South-African spin bowling was simply not close to par with their counterparts. The bitter truth is South-African batsmen couldn’t apply themselves. They haven’t been doing an iota of justice to the reputation of their batting. Kotla was definitely not a first innings sub hundred & fifty wicket. Another point to note is, this was pretty much the same team that had the upper hand in the limited overs format at the beginning of the tour.

India has had the reputation of creating mountains out of slow left-arm molehills, which they did in the Nagpur test. But, Ashwin’s six to bring up his fifty in the first innings, Rahane’s slog sweep to the googly and Saha’s mini burst in the second innings exposed Imran Tahir like an item girl in a B grade Bollywood movie. Spin bowling is no rolling over the die, it is an art and a science. It has to be preserved and the subcontinent teams are its custodians.

Everything up until the above line, was written just around this time last year, (apologies for blindsiding, but the average fan memory is too fickle. This needed to be done) when (apparently) the two best batsmen in the world were showing the world what saving a test match is all about — people forget that, saving comes after it is established that you were about to lose, which South-Africa did despite stubborn resilience of the highest order from Amla & ABD. But resilience also works both ways, the immovable objects were met with an immense and consistent force of a higher vector (not just magnitude, but direction) from the Indian spinners and the test match was won. By 337 runs. A margin more than the recently concluded Indore test.

Now yet again, in wake of an utterly dominating display of Test cricket from India, to blank the black caps, the murmurs grow louder. Jadeja & Ashwin together accounted for 41 wickets out of a possible 60, as against 21 from the NZ quartet. Shami & Bhuvaneshwar’s strike rates, averages and economies were much better than those of Boult & Co. The highest score from the visitors was 2 runs lesser than the highest of the home team’s number six’s score. Statistics can tell a story if heard attentively, they lie only when there’s a market research to be sold.

They never gave credit to the spin quartet back then, nor did they recognize the ‘jumbo’ talent and ever since Waugh’s dream team succumbed at their Final Frontier to Harbhajan, we have been hearing how Indian pitches are ruining cricket’s ultimate format. What people seem to be conveniently missing out is that, while, fast bowling is the just out of puberty testosterone filled jock that is comparing sizes and a champion at beer pongs, its sibling too is a full blooded testosterone filled jock, that is good at math, can dance, wears cologne and manages to charm the homecoming queen whilst beating everyone at chess.

Summers after summers teams visit India with a lot of talk and absolute lack of preparation. With growing technology that analyses every little toe and finger movement, data is not hard to come by, what is lacking is the analyses and interpretation. Fast bowling is an art & science too, and no one is denying it. But spin bowling is here to stay and keep growing, the sooner teams learn to accept this and practice, better will be their chances of giving India a tough time in India.

We are almost two years ahead from the darkest day in recent history when our sport was robbed off a young talent. His friend, a brother and a captain and one of the biggest proponent of fast bowling, around a year ago had said to another international fast bowler “Get ready for a broken f****** arm”; the debate around sledging will require another time and a lot more space but a lawsuit is underway to determine whether a countryman who allegedly sledged another on the field with a fatal threat did so and if so, was it intentional. Whatever the outcome, at least 2 cricketers’ lives are ruined, and for one of them, fatally so — all for instilling fear.

Fast bowling says “I’m prepared to and intend to hurt you physically”, while spin bowling says “I’m going to trap you”; like a mother to a cookie stealing toddler or someone that catches their spouse ogling at another.

On the fabric of combat, spin bowling is the fencing to fast bowling’s pugilism, and we refuse to say touché.

Originally published at nowdoyoucarebobby.wordpress.com on October 12, 2016.

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