The Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad witnessed an engaging debate between legendary Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar and former England captain Kevin Pietersen regarding the nature of the pitch during the ongoing first Test between India and England. The match has unfolded as a captivating display of Test cricket, featuring regular wicket falls and batters reaping rewards for their attacking approach, all attributed to the characteristics of the pitch.
In contrast to the surfaces in Ahmedabad during England’s 2021 tour, evident from Jasprit Bumrah’s deliveries rising to India keeper KS Bharat’s shoulders on Day 1, the Hyderabad pitch has allowed for good carry. This facilitated batters to play shots freely, with England openers Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett maintaining a brisk run rate of nearly five runs per over for the initial 10 overs.
However, the introduction of spin altered the dynamics. Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed Duckett with an LBW in his second over, while Ravindra Jadeja’s delivery saw Crawley chipping a catch to mid-off. England, initially at 55/0, found themselves at 60/3.
“It’s not as if the ball was spinning and bouncing, look at the dismissals. Crawly caught at mid-on, Root out sweeping. All the other batters… the technique was not good. It wasn’t turning and bouncing that much. When you play Test cricket and are coming to India, you have to expect the ball to turn from Day 1. You can’t expect the ball to go straight through,” said Sunil Gavaskar.
Kevin Pietersen expressed concern over the substantial turn observed in Jadeja’s first two deliveries during the last session of Day 2. According to Pietersen, the ball shouldn’t turn that much on the first day of a Test match. In response, Sunil Gavaskar countered by attributing most of England’s dismissals to poor technique, emphasizing that the pitch had minimal influence.
“Of course, it is expected to spin. The difference between the two teams has been the amount of spin the spinners from the two sides have got,” added Kevin Pietersen.
Sunil Gavaskar highlighted that when playing Test cricket in India, teams should anticipate a turn from the opening day. He cited examples of dismissals, such as Crawley caught at mid-on and Root falling while attempting a sweep, to reinforce his point about technique playing a significant role.
Pietersen argued that the disparity lay in the amount of turn generated by Indian and England’s spinners. Gavaskar concluded the discussion with a light-hearted acknowledgement that maintaining complete neutrality as a commentator is challenging.
In the first innings, India’s spin trio – Ashwin, Jadeja, and Axar – combined to take eight wickets, restricting England to 246. However, England’s spinners, including Jack Leach, Tom Hartley, and Rehan Ahmed, struggled as India posted a substantial total of 436, alleviating concerns about the pitch. Multiple Indian batsmen, including three surpassing the 80-run mark, contributed to the team’s impressive total.