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Dicey Wanderers Pitch - Green Top Vs Dust Bowl Pitch

Third test match of freedom series 2018 being played between number 1 ranked India and number 2 ranked South Africa has been halted because of a bouncer that has hit Dean Elgar (South Africa opening batsmen) on the helmet.

Some people are already saying that it's a dangerous pitch. Michael holding, former West Indies great fast bowler, has given the pitch 2 out of not 10 but 100. He also recommend calling off the match.

On the other hand, Ajinkya Rahane, Indian middle order batsmen who made 48 runs on same pitch and fought it out in the middle along with his brave captain Virat kohli, says it is just a challenging wicket and not dangerous.

dean elgar
Dean Elgar having a sip of drink after being hit by a Jasprit Bumrah bouncer at Wanderers, Johannesburg in freedom series India Vs South Africa 2018, even as Hashim Amla contemplates

If you are a neutral, and just look at it from distance, this Wanderers pitch is just dicey and not life threatening.

"Life threatening," - Yes! Keep these two words at the back of your mind as you read on.

Lot has been talked about and written on pitches on which cricket is being played these days. Many people have complained that they have gotten flatter and flatter and hence the competition between bat and ball had died.

On the other hand many have complained about pitches in asian subcontinent, especially in India, that they turn too much. 

So, there is a problem with both flat pitches and turning pitches.

But there is one interesting thing here. If a ball turns from day 1, it is labeled as a bad pitch. On the other hand if a ball keeps on seeming and swinging till the 5th day of the test, which has exactly been the case in this current test match series (freedom series between Ind and South Africa), it is not considered as a poor pitch.

Many cricket supporters from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, sometimes England, come up with argument that if a pitch turns from day 1 it has to be a bad or under prepared pitch. 

But, there is a saying in cricket that if a pitch helps spinner, it helps fast bowlers too.

Indian pitches are labeled as "dust bowls" by cricketing community these days. Because they become dusty due to premature crumbling.

But are dust bowls dangerous? Are they life threatening? No. or May be Yes!

Are dust bowls good pitches or not?

What is a good pitch? 

For us, a pitch that brings in all facets of game forward and facilitate bowlers and batsmen with different skill sets to showcase their talent is a good cricket pitch.

And dust bowls does allow all facets of game of cricket to come into play. Both spinners and fast bowlers, and batsmen who play them well, get equal chances to showcase their skill.

On dust bowls, the pitches that turn extreme, ball does become rough and aide fast bowlers in reverse swinging it. All quality bowlers, bowlers who are ready to work hard, love reverse swinging the cricket ball.

Other type of pitches are called "green tops". These pitches have more than fair covering of grass. 

Now, Are "green tops" good cricketing pitches?

Many people think so. They say that a green top will eventually become flat and than turn on last day of test cricket, thus bringing  in spin bowlers into play too. Hence covering all facets of game.

But there is bit of glitch here. Often on green top pitches, match gets over within two and a half or three days. It doesn't get to 4th or 5th day for spinners to weave their magic on batsmen. 

And some green top pitches keep on helping fast bowlers till the end and don't provide any turn. This was the case when indian cricket team toured South Africa last time. India set South Africa more than 400 runs to chase in last innings of wanderers test match. Pitch only got flat and never turned. And South African batsmen made merry.

They came close to winning the test, without any trouble. Same was the case with New Zealand pitches, when India toured there in 2003. Matches got over within 2 days.

Thus, one can't say that "green tops" are good test pitches when compared to "dust bowl" pitches. Green top pitches, especially in South Africa and New Zealand don't bring spin bowlers into play as much as they should.

Administrator has to seriously look into this. Art of spinning the ball is a difficult art. It is one of the most fascinating part of cricket viewing when super slomo cameras show the spinning ball in the air, and then it breaks of the pitch to defeat the batsmen shot.

Green tops definitely kill spin bowling. Ravichandran Ashwin is a great spin bowler. But in this series between India and South Africa, green top pitches has robbed viewers of watching Ashwin turning the ball.

Now what about this much debated wanderes pitch. Yes, it is a green top pitch. It is a dicey pitch. But just like dust bowls it is not a killer pitch.

Most south african batsmen have unusual trigger movements before ball is delivered. Thus when they get beaten on a pitch that has bit of seam movement and slight uneven bounce it gets exaggerated. It's looks dangerous.

The ball from Jusprit Bumrah that hit Dean Elgar smack bang in the middle on the helmet grill was a normal short of a length delivery supposed to bounce. It was very well directed bouncer, needed good technique to evade the rising ball, and Elgar with his unusual movements got caught right in the firing line. Pitch has nothing to do with it.

But it is far from that.

Had they got the lead of even 50 runs, no one would be calling this pitch dangerous. Because they would know that it will be India that will be batting last . And if their ribs or fingers break, it doesn't matter. It will only be a big opportunity for big mouths to question their technique and temperament.


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