Spent a couple hours at the MCA ground today watching the Ranji Trophy match between Mumbai and Saurashtra. About the only moment of excitement was when Rohit Sharma, after a long session at the nets, took over a photographer's camera and began shooting shots of us journalists sitting in the press enclosure.
The cricket, to say the least, was mind-numbingly dull and that is because of the nature of the wicket. How can Indian cricket survive when the curators are happy to produce such benign surfaces? Ajit Agarkar, will all due respect to his batting prowess that earned him a Lord's Test century, and 20-year-old left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla, career batting average of 21.64, with a previous best of 30*, should not have been able to bat like Ponsford and Woodfull. Abdulla was steering, cutting and deflecting with such ease and regularity. There was nothing in the wicket for the bowlers, and Ravindra Jadeja deserves a medal for managing four wickets on that track. Abdulla was unbeaten on 150 - 150!! - when Mumbai declared at 580 for 9.
Why can't Indian curators lay pitches that provide a fair degree of bounce? Ask anyone in the know and their response will most always be unsuitability of the soil and interference by captains and host associations. But how long will curators offer these excuses? Why are there but three sporting five-day wickets in the country? To me, the root of the cause is that typical 'sab chaltha hai' attitude. So deep is the malaise that now few can attempt to change anything. There is no other excuse. The BCCI isn't short of money. Is the pitches committee such a threat to administrators of state associations? How can state associations demand wickets of their own liking?
One suggestion, not a solution, would be to scrap the home and away system currently in place. This has been suggested by others at the highest level but to no avail. This should be done for both the Super and Plate leagues. Have matches at neutral venues where pitces are not doctored according to the preference of a captain, coach or board official.
In most grounds across the country, the honorary curator is an elected position within that respective state associations. Many are qualified, but not all. It is those who lack the necessary experience or skills that is killing domestic cricket. In countries such as England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, the curator is a professional position; the individual has graduated to level of education in cricket pitch management.
The BCCI and its various state associations need to implement a structure in which new curators are trained. The legion of geriatrics in existence need support and ideally need to be replaced. A system is in place, of that I know, but the pitches committee needs to work harder on formalized training of junior curators. The system must run deep.
What kid today will want to become a bowler if he watches the kind of cricket that was on view at the MCA ground today?