Why the Motera pitch has been in the news


22 yards! The most important aspect of a cricket field. Unfortunately, more than the players showcasing their skills and reaching milestones, the pitch has been making the news as India and England prepare to face off in the fourth and final Test of what has been an enthralling Test series.

However, what dominated the narrative was the nature of the pitch – it was deemed a rank turner with spinners taking 28 of the 30 wickets that fell during the contest. More than that, the batsmen on both sides struggled to make a mark, as the match ended in little over five sessions in Ahmedabad.

While India captain Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma dismissed the talks that the pitch had demons, England skipper Joe Root said it’s for the ICC to decide while calling it a ‘challenging’ surface to bat on.

Many such as Sunil Gavaskar, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Rohit Sharma, Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen, Nathan Lyon have defended the surface — which did spin but wickets fell off-spinners-mainly due to the pink ball skidding more than the red one -the likes of Michael Vaughan, David Lloyd, Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, etc. have openly slammed the Motera pitch.

The third Test, thus, became the shortest-ever (in terms of balls bowled) since 1935. The fourth and final Test will be held at the same venue, from March 4 (Thursday), with all eyes on how the pitch will pan out this time around.

Motera pitch: Fourth Test touted

Having lost the opening Test match of the series, India now have won back to back Tests and need just a draw to qualify for the World Test Championship final at Lord’s from June 18-22.

Considering that, the BCCI pitch committee may defer from preparing another rank turner, which would induce a result-oriented strip.

Also, the BCCI bigwigs along with the team management understand the fact that another dust bowl won’t augur well for the new venue which is expected to host a lot of important matches during IPL as well as ICC T20 World Cup.

The matter of fact lies that while India went with three spinners for the pink-ball Test, England included only Jack Leach in the playing XI. That there was hardly any dismissal in England’s both innings, which can be directly attributed to the pitch keeping low or offering unreasonable turn.

That when India were skittled out for 36 during their recent tour of Australia, pitch was not questioned-but what was questioned was the technique and application of India’s batsmen.
Why can’t the English press get to think rationally, or is it the hurt of being hurled out of their comfort zone?

To his huge credit, England skipper Joe Root didn’t directly cite the nature of the pitch as the reason behind his team’s 10-wicket defeat against India in Ahmedabad but in a subtle little manner, he did highlight the excessive assistance the spinners were getting from the surface. While the cricketing spectrum is divided over their verdict of the pitch, what does the ICC rule say about spin-friendly pitches?

When asked about his verdict of the pitch, Root highlighted the fact that a part-time spinner like him got 5 wickets in the first innings. The feat, which although is a huge one for the England captain, does shed light on the sort of help spinners were getting from the wicket.

Motera pitch: What does the ICC say

When does ICC rate a pitch poor?

When it comes to spin-friendly tracks, the ICC rulebook has definite criteria when it comes to rating a pitch poor. The rule states:

“A poor pitch is one that does not even allow an even contest between bat and ball, either by favouring batters too much, and not giving the bowlers (seam and spin) from either side sufficient opportunity to take wickets, or by favouring the bowlers too much (seam or spin), and not giving the batters from either team the opportunity to make runs,” ICC rules state.

“The pitch offers excessive assistance to spin bowlers, especially early in the match.”
The visiting skipper was also asked if the ICC should take greater control over the nature of pitches that are prepared. The visiting captain said that this was for the apex body to decide.

Root-led England will, however, have to step up and silence their critics, who feel the visitors can’t play spin properly, with a win in the fourth and final Test and end the series at 2-2. They are out of the race from reaching the final of the ICC World Test Championship whereas India need to at least draw the last Test to reach the summit clash, and play New Zealand.

To earmark the Indian angle, during one of the pressers, Ravichandran Ashwin was very vocal on his views when asked to comment on the Motera pitch during a virtual presser, ahead of the fourth and final Test. He didn’t mince his words and slammed a British reporter by saying, “Who defines what a good surface is? The seam on the first day, then bat well in the next couple of days and spin on the last two days, come on, who makes these rules?.”