The dust is starting to settle following the conclusion of the 3rd test between England and India yesterday, although the dust around the pitch in Ahmedabad may not settle for some time.
We've discussed the pitch on Twitter much to the chagrin of many Indian followers. I want to make this abundantly clear, in no way am I suggesting that the pitch was why England lost, England lost because they have failed to develop their techniques on spinning wickets and failed to learn from their failings throughout.
However, that doesn't take away from the fact that a test match between two very good sides ended on the 2nd day. It robbed the fans of three days of action, which is especially disappointing considering the test was aired on free to air television in the UK, making it accessible for the first time in a generation.
The ICC's regulations put the decision into the match officials hands, so it's very unlikely we'll see a rating of poor, despite it seeming to fit the criteria of "offering excessive assistance to spin bowlers" and "not allowing an even contest between bat and ball". Not only did England struggle to score runs, but the Indian batsmen were skittled in their first inning as well, with Joe Root, a part-time spinner taking 5 wickets for just 8 runs. We know it should be rated poor, the match official knows it should be rated poor, but the way this all works means it'll be soon forgotten.
The 140.2 overs for a completed match was the shortest test match since 1935, which speaks for itself.
Virat Kohli was unhappy with the first wicket prepared on this tour, the one which was described by the groundsmen as "English looking", the result of that contest was a resounding victory for England by over 200 runs. Obviously, with the World Test Championship final up for grabs, Kohli wanted a wicket that India were capable of taking advantage of.
Now let us just say that contrasting pitches are what we want to see in world cricket. We don't want to see the same wicket prepared in every single country. The ball is going to spin more in Asia than in other parts of the world and teams need to be prepared for that. India just pushed the dial so far the other way, they failed to prepare a wicket suitable for international cricket, and while some of their fans won't care, we've seen plenty of Indian cricket fans criticise the pitch for not offering a fair contest.
Saying that, the blame for this defeat does not rest on the pitch or the groundsmen or Virat Kohli, it rests on the heads of the English batsmen who failed to adapt to the conditions, as batsman after batsman tried to play the ball on the back foot. We saw the same dismissal play out over and over and over again. Rohit Sharma showed how you could play this wicket by advancing and meeting the ball, getting out in front to negate the uneven spin and bounce. England instead elected to stay in their crease and wait for the inevitable dismissal.
The point about the pitch doesn't revolve around the result. India would have won this test match, they were simply too good for England and the early signs from their 2nd inning showed that they had done what England failed to do, they have learnt from their 1st inning. The pitch being slightly better doesn't change the result, it just gives the fans and the international cricket community a real test, a real battle between bat and pad and at least a contest that goes into the 4th day.
Axar Patel took 11 wickets, and around 7-8 of those were on the exact same delivery. A straight delivery that did very little. You can't blame the pitch for missing a straight delivery, sure the uneven bounce and deviation may have gotten into the minds of the England batsmen, but playing the line instead of the pitch has always been the way to score runs in Asia and players like Sir Alastair Cook proved this countless times.
Rohit Sharma at the conclusion of the days play reiterated that it was a good wicket to bat on, obviously lying through his teeth to try and distract a little bit of the pressure. However he did say something that had some absolute truth to it, concentration was required to score runs on that wicket and it was something that seemed to be lacking with the England batsmen. Perhaps frustrated with the controversial umpiring during the series so far, England failed to dig in.
So we can criticise the pitch which was unacceptable, but the England batsmen played their part in the two day finish and will need to seriously adapt their technique if they hope to compete in the 4th test. With India needing to avoid defeat to guarantee a place in the World Test Championship, you're either going to see a huge turner again which would heavily favour the home side, or you'll see an absolute road which would guarantee a draw. Neither are great for a paying public, but England need to learn to adapt, and England need to learn from their mistakes, there was no evidence of either happening during the 3rd test.