Several former players, including India’s Harbhajan Singh and VVS Laxman, on Thursday, said that the spin-friendly Motera pitch, on which India defeated England by 10 wickets inside two days, was not ideal for Test cricket but their opinion was not shared by former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar.
Gavaskar said the overtly defensive mindset of the batsmen was responsible for their dismissals as most of them got out to straighter deliveries.
India demolished England by 10 wickets to go 2-1 up in the four-match series with the spinners taking all but one of the 20 opposition wickets. Left-arm spinner Axar Patel had a match-haul of 11 for 70 while senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin took seven wickets to reach the milestone of 400 wickets.
“It was not an ideal pitch for a Test match and even India collapsed (to 145 in their first innings,” former India batting stalwart Laxman said.
Harbhajan, one of the four members of the Indian 400 Test wicket club, also felt the same.
“It is not an ideal pitch. India would also have been in trouble if England had scored 200 in their first innings. But it (the pitch) is the same for both sides,” said the 40-year-old off-spinner.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan mocked the surface in a tweet.
“If we are going to see these pitches ... I have an answer to how it could work ... Give the Teams 3 innings !!! #INDvENG,” he wrote.
Yuvraj was alo very critical of it though he lauded the Indian bowlers for their excellent performance.
“Finished in 2 days Not sure if that’s good for test cricket !If @anilkumble1074 and @harbhajan_singh bowled on these kind of wickets they would be sitting on a thousand and 800?” he tweeted.
“However congratulations to @akshar2026 what a spell! congratulations @ashwinravi99 @ImIshant.”
Gavaskar credited Indian spinners Ashwin and Patel for India’s win rather than blaming the pitch.
“It’s more about the intent and application of the batsmen,” said Gavaskar. “It is a pitch where Rohit and Crawley hit half centuries. England were thinking of how to survive and not how to score runs.”
He added: “You need to use the depth of your crease (to tackle spin). So, there comes your footwork. On fast bouncy pitches, it is more a matter of your courage. These kinds of pitches, it is a test of your skill. Which is the reason the batsmen who can score runs on these pitches, are the real batsmen...”
Gavaskar was critical not just of the England batsmen but also of the Indian batsmen.
“When the ball is turning, you have to try and get to the pitch of the ball,” he said. “And it is not just the England batsmen, the Indian batsmen are also stuck in the crease. They have allowed the ball to do its thing. You have to go towards the ball. If you are down the wicket, the umpire will think ten times before giving them out. Their mindset was completely defeatist.”
Former England spinner Graeme Swann slammed the visitors for playing just one spinner in a Test match in India where pitches are generally spin-friendly.
“You cannot come to India and play just one spinner in a Test match and get way on this wicket,” he said.
Joining the criticism of the track was Kevin Pietersen.
“To have a pitch like this for one match is fine as batsmen’s skill is put to test. But I would not like to see a pitch like this again and I think none of the other players want to see it either. Well done India,” he posted.
He later posted another tweet in which he seemed to agree with Gavaskar’s view on the surface.
“The batting from both teams was awful! The wicket wasn’t horrendous! It’s just that the batting was dreadful! 21/30 wickets were from straight balls! Nothing dangerous!,” he said.