Rohit Sharma-Ravi Shastri Spat Reveals Fragilities
Indore hit a new low
All it took was one defeat to expose the fragilities, fissures and practicality of the state of affairs. As an irked Indian captain batted off pitch questions, he had to also deal with the coach speaking the truth about pitch matters and a former coach squaring off about overconfidence in the Indian team.
The manner in which the post match press conference went down in Indore following a Test match that endured the better part of one session more than two days, Rohit Sharma was fielding questions about pitch and the temperament of the Indian batsmen without the conviction of a captain who backed his decision and his team on the turning pitches that were the veritable dust bowls.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee, Chris Broad, said it as much, when he wrote in his report about the pitch in Indore, “The pitch, which was very dry, did not provide a balance between bat and ball, favouring spinners from the start. The fifth ball of the match broke through the pitch surface and continued to occasionally break the surface providing little or no seam movement and there was excessive and uneven bounce throughout the match.”
That report was also part of the ICC hammer down that handed the Indore pitch a verdict of “poor”, earning the venue three demerits points. The irony of the situation was not lost given that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) took it upon themselves to change the venue at the virtual eleventh hour for the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy deeming the renovation work undertaken in Dharamsala had undermined the venue’s feasibility to host a Test match.
But their attempt to take the heat of the pitch situation only worsened when after the pitches in Nagpur and Delhi were labelled “average”, Indore hit a new low.
Now India are caught in a predicament because the captain, Rohit Sharma, claimed vehemently after the Indore match that the conversations about the pitches only got louder when foreign teams toured India and that India would play to their strength, which is spin.
But the current coach, Rahul Dravid, was batting with a practical bat as usual. His contention was that there would be discussions about the pitch and while valid, it was also an inevitable environment where the hosts would prepare conditions suitable for them given the structure of the awarding of the points for Test wins, not accounting for Test wins away from home.
With points at stake and a place in the ICC World Test championships, Dravid, like many in the cricket fraternity, hammered home the truth that without the contention of awarding more points for winning away from home on different conditions or bonuses for away Test series win, every host will look to prepare home grounds that are conducive to them, even if it means sometimes having to compromise their own batsmen in the quest to bring the downfall of the opposition batting.
Rohit Sharma called the pitch discussion “too much”, but he was not done batting. Ravi Shastri, the former coach, gave something more to the captain to seeth about. Rohit Sharma has already revealed a fragile mindset, getting touchy about statistics being pointed out by the broadcasters and it would seem that if Shastri had a pot shot (or two) to take, the timing couldn’t have been better.
Trading barbs would have perhaps been left to teams. Instead it would seem that it took one defeat after two relatively comprehensive ones for the captain’s mindset to be exposed. It would have perhaps been wiser in hindsight for Rohit Sharma to sidestep Shastri’s comments altogether and perhaps let the result of the fourth test do the talking.
Instead this is what Rohit Sharma had to say, while dubbing Shastri as “the outsider”, “Honestly, when you win two games, and people on the outside feel that you are overconfident it’s absolutely rubbish because you want to do your best in all four games.”
While the captain is right in defending the team if he feels that contrary to popular, complacency and overconfidence did not have a part to play, the remark clearly got under his skin, which would have prompted this “outside” rebut.
“Obviously all these guys, when they talk about being over-confident and all, and especially when they are not part of the dressing room, they don’t know what sort of talk happens in dressing rooms,” he added. His comments are not unlike past captains, including Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
The fact of the matter is that by choosing to go with a heavily biassed pitch, if team India did have a big say in the matter, they have complicated their own situation by giving the Australians the psychological advantage. While it would not seem that either teams’ spot in making the final of the ICC World Test championship was in any doubt, it has cast a doubt about India’s ability to stay on top of their game, particularly when they are dealt the same bouncer they look to inflict on their opposition.
India now stand on the cusp of either succumbing to the practicality, as Dravid says, or having no choice but to stand by the skipper’s words now that he has said India will stick to their strengths. However, the truth might actually lie somewhere in between.
Steve Smith already had a “captain” moment, when he had to explain his comments about the pitch and the reaction to some comments about Australia playing to their own strengths of a pace attack and just one spinner. India have also had to deal with the fact that were they to go with a green top in Ahmedabad, the venue for the fourth and final Test with India 2-1 up in the series, they have not ideally had the firepower.
They have lost their premier strike bowler Jasprit Bumrah, through injuries, have kept Mohammad Shami on the rotation roster and Siraj under probation, not ideal going into a team that does know how to play pace. But would Rohit Sharma be willing to put that to the test?