Gautam Gambhir's quest for home comfort disappointing

Gambhir has called for rank turners to be prepared in India to take advantage of home conditions © Getty Images

 

By Madan Mohan

 

Gautam Gambhir has been caught in a downward spiral from 2011 onwards. His 97 in the World Cup final was probably his only high point on the field. Elsewhere, his form deserted him and controversies surrounding his participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with injuries dogged him. Even as his struggle for form has continued in 2012, his statement on Sunday struck a disappointing note. 

 

Gambhir has called for rank turners to be prepared in India to take advantage of home conditions. He believes visiting teams must be tested for their ability to adapt to unfamiliar conditions just as, apparently, India have been tested inAustralia. It seems to confirm what David Warner had to say about the chit chat he claimed to have received from the team challenging him to score as many in India. Please note here the line from Gambhir’s statement: “The chit chat they do when we go overseas and they talk about our technique.  I have followed Gambhir’s career with interest and have to say that to me, this approach sounds rather negative.   

 

Firstly, India have not stopped preparing turners for visiting teams. Yes, the pitch prepared at Kanpur during the 2008 series against South Africa was criticised by the International Cricket Council (ICC), but that was only because it turned square from day one. Indian pitches have generally afforded turn at least from Day Three onwards, and the abrasive conditions in many venues also encourage reverse swing. This was exploited by the Indian bowlers at Mohali and Nagpur in the 2008 series against Australia. A turner was prepared for South Africa at Kolkata in the 2010 series and it duly delivered. Some extremely flat pitches have also been prepared, but visiting teams have obliquely hinted that these were designed to consolidate an early lead gained by India in the series. 

 

So, do we take Gambhir’s statement to suggest that the pitches prepared by Australia were as unfriendly to the batsmen as the Kanpur pitch? I’m afraid I would have to disagree with that. These pitches were nowhere as difficult to bat on as the ones New Zealand prepared for India in the 2002-03 Test series. New Zealand’s over-dependence on swing was exposed in the World Cup that followed shortly in South Africa, so they paid the price for relying too much protection on home advantage. 

 

Australian pitches, on the other hand, have given a fair chance to batsman and bowler.  Surely, the blame for a first innings collapse in Sydney cannot be assigned to the pitch if three Australian batsmen strike centuries. In spite of the lush grass cover on the Perth surface, the batsmen certainly didn’t find the conditions unplayable. If Gambhir failed to drop his wrists in time against Mitchell Starc in his second innings dismissal, does that necessarily indicate thatAustralia deliberately took on a hostile approach to beat India? Or just that the Indian batting got found out?

 

I don’t want to suggest the Indian team should serve up sleeping beauties for the visitors.  No, by all means test their skills at tackling spin bowling so long as you don’t resort to underprepared pitches. But should the batsmen focus on revenge that they may earn in the distant horizon or on identifying what went wrong in England and Australia?

 

I had said in my earlier article that, across the board, teams currently appear to lack the skills to win in all conditions. It seems to me that at least Gambhir and his ilk would be quite happy with that and to merely dominate at home. Does Team India only thirst for an opportunity to return veiled insults from Australian cricketers, former and current, or do they want to emulate the champion West Indian squad of the ’80s or Steve Waugh’s Aussies in the noughties? 

 

I had, like several other fans, asked the above question when India did not show ruthlessness in closing out a winning position in the third Test of the series played in West Indies. And if Gambhir’s statement on Sunday is anything to go by, Team India is sadly slipping into a chip-over-the-shoulder mentality instead of transforming into a world beating squad that is propelled by its own motivation. Well, more fool me for daydreaming as the team’s overseas woes pile up. 

 

(Madan Mohan is a 26-year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)