A victory of defiance, not a dead pitch
(The views expressed here are solely those of the author, and not necessarily those of Reuters)
Cricket is a contest of attrition. The game is a lot more about skills and strategies than just the “condition of the pitch.” It’s certainly more cerebral than what a few contemporary commentators would have us believe.
If Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shami put on a magnificent 111-run partnership for the last wicket, credit should be given to their extraordinary defiance, and the lack of it to England bowlers’ inability to out-think the two tailenders and partly to Cook’s captaincy.
It was disappointing to hear a few commentators blaming the “flat pitch” of the Trent Bridge instead. One can understand if fans resort to such logic, but when former international cricketers do the same, it smacks of a “going-through-the-motion” kind of effort behind the microphone.
The pitch was blamed for the second time when Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson put on a majestic 198-run partnership against the Indian bowling attack, which had clearly stopped thinking by then, along with the captain, M.S. Dhoni. Surely, a world record is not created because of a lifeless pitch; it requires blood, sweat and exemplary character. Root and Anderson showcased all of that. Incidentally, the same Indian bowling attack reduced England to a demoralizing 202 for 7. How can a pitch behave so diametrically opposite in the same session? Clearly, commentators were barking up the wrong tree.
The only commentator, who kept blaming poor effort on the part of the bowlers on both the occasions of the dogged rear-guard action, was Wasim Akram – the Sultan of Swing. And it wasn’t surprising as the country he comes from is known for “lifeless, flat pitches”, which made generations of Pakistani bowlers rely less on the pitch and more on the art of beating batsmen in the air. Another art which Akram and his peers mastered was the art of “maintaining the ball” to make it reverse swing at the last second.
During the entire Trent Bridge Test last week, Akram kept harping on the fact that bowlers should always try to outthink the batsman whatever the pitch condition. In the first innings, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar did torment the English batsmen on the same pitch with some incisive bowling, and then Anderson and Stuart Broad retaliated in both the innings. It goes to prove, at best, a pitch can be a minor ally not a “force multiplier” in modern day cricket.
The pitch is often held responsible for a drawn match nowadays and what’s often overlooked is the team’s or individual effort to hold its ground until the end. If at all, the Trent Bridge Test should be remembered for sparkling centuries by Joe Roots and Murali Vijay, remarkable resistance by the likes of Anderson, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami, and some good bowling by both sides. And don’t forget the splendid match-saving effort (78) by the debutant Stuart Binny.
The Trent Bridge Test was a victory of defiance, not the dead pitch.