India frustrated by pitch talk as early Test finishes pile up

Indore: India’s captain Rohit Sharma declared he did not care how many days home Test matches lasted so long as his side played in conditions that gave them the best chance to win, even as broadcasters puzzle over vast swathes of lost cricket for the world’s most watched team.

Australia’s victory in Indore, completed before lunch on day three, meant that in 19 Tests played since the BCCI signed a deal for international cricket with Disney Star in 2018, no fewer than 30 days had been left unused due to rapid finishes.

Rohit Sharma.Credit:Getty Images

In that time, only three of 19 matches have got to day five: against South Africa in Vizag in 2018, England in Chennai in 2021 and New Zealand at Kanpur in the same year.

While India’s dominance on home soil has been largely driven by a move towards ultra-helpful pitches for Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, the surfeit of early finishes are becoming a talking point in the last series before the expiry of the five-year, US$1 billion broadcast deal.

Responding to a nine-wicket defeat by Australia after his side was rolled for 109 on the opening day as the ball spun and spat viciously from the first over bowled by Matt Kuhnemann, Rohit was reluctant to acknowledge the surface’s influence.

“This pitch talk is just getting too much,” he said. “Every time you play in India there’s only focus on the pitch. Why are people not asking me about Nathan Lyon and how well he bowled, how well Pujara batted, how well Usman Khawaja played. We focus too much on the pitch here in India and I don’t feel it’s necessary.

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.Credit:Getty Images

“Former cricketers, I don’t think they played on pitches like this. These are the kinds of pitches we want to play on, this is our strength. When you’re playing at your home, always play to your strength. Not worry about what people outside are talking about. Our strength is spin bowling and batting depth.

“Everyone uses that advantage as home side, so what’s wrong with that. We’ve got to do that as well. Especially when we are getting results. If we were not getting the results, I would think otherwise. But we are playing well, getting the results we want.“

After the first day, India’s batting coach Vikram Rathore admitted the Indore pitch had done “much more” than the team had hoped for after the match was moved from Dharamshala at the last moment. But Rohit said it was all part of the team strategy to win home Tests.

“We are here to win, we want to win, whether it’s two days or five days doesn’t really matter,” he said. “We don’t want to prepare a pitch where the results are not coming.

“So it’s about skills, if the pitches are helping the bowlers, the batters need to try and test their skills. It’s not about always making sure we’re playing on flat pitches and the results don’t come. In Pakistan there were three Test matches played and people were saying ‘it’s become so boring’, we’re making it interesting for you guys.

“In the first innings I don’t think there was a lot happening. If you look at all the dismissals, we played poorly. Maybe one or two wickets was where the pitch did help the bowler a little bit, but other than that I think it was the skill of the bowler.”

Rohit’s opposite number, Steve Smith, combined his sense of enjoyment for tough Indian conditions with a gentle query about whether Indore’s pitch had gone too far. ICC match referee Chris Broad will submit his rating in coming days.

“You’ve got to really work hard for your runs,” Smith said. “Guys can do it, you’ve got to work hard for them and you need some luck.

“With this one, whether it might have been a little bit too extreme, potentially from the first ball? I’m not really entirely sure, but it was still enjoyable.”

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