The 22-yard strip at the Motera stadium was expectedly in the eye of the storm after England lost the third Test to India inside two days, a defeat which also put paid to their hopes of playing New Zealand in the final of the World Test Championship at Lord’s later this year.
Former England captains like Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss led the chorus against the pitch at Ahmedabad, with the former describing the strip as “s***e” in a tweet, while the latter, while talking on Channel 4, said, “On Day 1, it felt like it was possible to score runs on this pitch if you had a good technique, today it feels like a lottery.” Vaughan also tweeted in jest that teams be given three innings to bat on pitches like the one at Motera.
If we are going to see these pitches ... I have an answer to how it could work ... Give the Teams 3 innings !!! #INDvENG
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) February 25, 2021
England skipper Joe Root, meanwhile, was more circumspect and measured in his view of the pitch.
“Let’s not hide away from the fact that we have been outplayed again. We’ve still been outplayed, and we have to accept that,” said Root when asked about Strauss’ comment in his post-match press conference before continuing, “But it’s a real shame that this is a fantastic stadium and 60,000 people have come to watch what’s an iconic Test match. I feel for them. They’ve come to face Virat Kohli face Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad or Jack Leach or R Ashwin against our top batsmen. And instead, they have to watch me get wickets like that, which shouldn’t be the case.
"That is what I think is the frustration for a lot of people. The fact of the matter is that it was challenging for both teams. As a player, all you can do is play on what’s in front of you. Credit to India since they outplayed us.”
The nature of the pitch was such that Root ended up claiming five wickets in India’s first innings while giving away just eight runs off 6.2 overs. He was asked if he was happy with the surface.
“I think this was a very challenging surface. But it’s not for players to decide whether it’s fit for purpose or not. That’s up to the ICC. As players we have to find a counter for what’s in front of us,” he said.
The Test was the shortest match since 1935, a damning factoid. It was also pointed out on social media that the T20I between Australia and New Zealand had produced more runs (434), than the entire third India-England Test (396, across four innings). Even former India player Yuvraj Singh tweeted: “finished in 2 days Not sure if that’s good for test cricket ! (sic).”
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 ?However congratulations to @akshar2026 what a spell! congratulations @ashwinravi99 @ImIshant
— Yuvraj Singh (@YUVSTRONG12) February 25, 2021
There has been some suggestions that ICC should take control of wickets or standardise them for games that fall under the ICC Test Championship system. There have also been calls for ICC to start docking home teams points in the World Test Championship for pitches that favoured the home side.
“There’s always going to be slight home advantage. But it is a shame that you have got so many fantastic players that can’t actually have an impact on a Test match, be it Ishant (Sharma) or Jasprit (Bumrah) or Jofra Archer or Stuart Broad or Jimmy Anderson. You’ve got some of the best fast bowlers in the world and not get a chance to see them play…," said Root.
“I’m sure that at the back of this result and the last couple of matches, that’ll be looked at (docking home teams points). I’m here to play the game not make those decisions. I’m sure ICC will have looked at wickets around at world at different times. It’s certainly been two challenging surfaces over the past two games. But as players, you’ve got to try and play what’s handed to you.”
In a Test where 28 of 30 wickets that fell were claimed by spinners, England’s decision to go with a pace-heavy attack will also bear scrutiny. While India picked three spinners and two pacers, the England think tank chose James Anderon, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer with all-rounder Ben Stokes for company. Jack Leach was the lone specialist spinner in the visitors’ XI. It was also the first time in two decades that England had gone into a Test in India with just one spinner.
“We tried to play our best side in terms of utilising that pink ball. We thought the wicket would hold together better than it did. Seam looked like a real threatening option. It’s easy in hindsight to say otherwise and select a different team. We wanted to give our seamers a chance to exploit the conditions. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the impact on the game we anticipated,” said Root.
Root also said that it was the seam of the pink SG ball that was a factor in many dismissals.
“I honestly think the ball was a big factor on this wicket. The plastic coating on it and hardness of the seam, as compared to the red SG ball, meant that it almost gathered pace off the wicket if it hit the seam,” the England skipper said. “A lot of the dismissals in both teams were because batsmen were beaten for pace, and not necessarily because they were beaten on the inside. Credit to Axar particularly, who exploited it particularly well.”
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