'Flat decks give false confidence'

Sample this — 44 centuries, two triple tons and five double hundreds. The Ranji Trophy this season is just two rounds or 24 matches old but we already have staggering numbers stacked up in favour of batsmen.

Are our batsmen really that good or is the quality of our bowling so poor? Or is it a case of lop-sided pitches? It’s a combination of all those factors but not necessarily in equal measure, says former India paceman and Uttar Pradesh coach Venkatesh Prasad.

Prasad was particularly unhappy with the nature of surfaces that have been rolled out this season and he minced no words as he launched a broadside on those responsible for producing flat decks. The former Karnataka skipper watched in frustration as UP’s last match against Maharashtra in Pune ended in a draw with not even two innings completed. Batsmen from both sides plundered 1433 runs in total over four days.

“That was a disappointing pitch to say the least,” said Prasad here on Friday. “Such pitches serve no purpose apart from giving some false confidence to batsmen. Not just that match, there were quite a few in other places where bowlers had to toil hard without any reward,” he remarked.

While Saurashtra successfully chased down Gujarat’s first innings total of 600/9 declared in Surat with Ravindra Jadeja notching up a triple ton, Karnataka overhauled Tamil Nadu’s 538/4 declared in Chennai. It’s surprising that despite the BCCI forming a 10-member monitoring committee to ensure good quality pitches, little appears to have changed.

“It’s a bit sad because the BCCI had taken an initiative to ensure sporting wickets before the start of the season,” pointed out Prasad.

“Such directives become irrelevant if not many are going to follow them. I think the host associations should be heavily fined in such instances. I also don’t like this idea of an extended day (in case of no result from the knockout matches). Why do you punish players more who would have slogged for five days? If you can prepare a pitch that has something in it for the bowlers, five days are enough to get the result.”

At the same time, Prasad admitted that the skill level of bowlers at present was also questionable. “I do agree there’s a decline so far as bowlers’ skills are concerned but that’s universal. And by providing such pitches, we are making it even worse for them.”

Interestingly, Simon Fry, the Australian umpire officiating the Karnataka-UP match in an exchange programme, revealed there’s an outcry in his country against pitches which are bowler-friendly. “The batsmen are made to look a lot worse as the pitches are believed to be heavily in favour of the bowlers, so I guess we need to strike some kind of balance here.”

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