Blame it on the pitch! India’s Test win at Newlands sparks a row and war of words


Mohammed Siraj celebrates after taking down his fifth wicket in the first innings (ANI)

Indian Skipper Rohit Sharma labels their maiden Cape Town Test victory as being right up with India’s famous Gabba victory in 2021

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Cape Town

In a bizarre turn of events, the second Test at Newlands, saw India claiming a seven-wicket win with a total of 642 deliveries bowled in both innings. The Test was the shortest in the history of red-ball cricket, eclipsing the previous shortest involving Australia and South Africa in 1932 in Melbourne (656).

After completing the win in five sessions, Rohit talked about the importance of their emphatic victory and said as quoted from ESPNcricinfo, “It’ll be one of our best Test match victories. Having not won here in Cape Town [before], obviously this puts it right up there with all the victories that we’ve had. It’s very hard to compare the Test matches that you play because every Test match has its own importance and own relevance. The Test match that we won at The Gabba as well. The last test match that was lost by Australia in Brisbane was in 1988, I think. Nearly after 23, 24 years [32 years] we won the Test match there. It kind of became like their fortress. They never lose a test match there.”

India’s leading pace pair of Jasprit Bumrah (6-61) and Mohammed Siraj (6-15) were the architects of India’s redeeming, series-levelling win. Siraj’s first-inning spell set the tone of the game as South Africa succumbed to a score of 55. In the second inning, Bumrah ran past South Africa’s middle order and ensured South Africa couldn’t put up a massive score on the board.

“And the way we won that Test match as well was quite important. From where we came, we were 1-nil down, we won in Melbourne and then we drew the Test match in Sydney and then won in Brisbane. So, you can’t really rank the Test matches, but this has to be right up there because we had not won here. That shows how important a venue this is for us to come here and perform. I give a lot of credit to our team to put up a performance like that and win the game,” Rohit said.

Rohit further went on to speak about the importance of determining the conditions and then sticking to the game plan that they had for the game. “We knew it was not gonna be a high-scoring game. So, all we wanted to do was stay disciplined in how we bowl, not get ahead of ourselves and try and do too many things. Once we got them all out for 55, we spoke to the batters that we needed small contributions in this game,” Rohit said.

However, South Africa skipper Dean Elgar labelled the Newlands pitch as a “ripper” following India’s seven-wicket victory on Thursday in the second Test.

On a surface where the ball played all kinds of tricks on the batters, India made short work of the hosts with the ball on the second day, despite a heroic ton by opener Aiden Markram, and chased down a paltry target under 11 overs.

Elgar talked about the surface which made it hard for the batters to score each run. “It was a bit of a ripper. Naked eye, it looked like it’s going to be a nice one. It played totally different to what everyone thought. Unfortunately, we were on the receiving end, a big learning curve for the future. If you ask Rohit, he’d have batted first as well. They just out-skilled us in that first session.”

The experienced left-handed batter went on to talk about their overall performance which saw them on the losing side inside two days. Still, he was upbeat to take a lot of positives from the game.

“A tough one for us. Pretty positive coming into this game. The first innings killed us with the bat. India bowled fantastically and used the conditions. Still a draw, still a lot of positives for the young players that we have within the side. 2-0 would have been really nice, would have tasted a lot better today, still managed 1-1, proud of the boys. The way the bowlers bowled in this series and the way Aiden batted in the second innings is something out of the world.

Later, Rohit Sharma called out the International Cricket Council (ICC) as well as the match referees over the standard of rating pitches after the second Test between India and South Africa ended inside two days on Thursday.

After winning the shortest Test in history, Rohit opened up on the criticism of some Indian pitches for being rank turners favouring the hosts. “I mean, we saw what happened in this match, how the pitch played and stuff like that. I honestly don’t mind playing on pitches like this. As long as everyone keeps their mouth shut in India and don’t talk too much about Indian pitches, honestly,” Rohit said as quoted from ESPNcricinfo.

“Because you come here [in Test cricket] to challenge yourself. Yes, it is dangerous. It is challenging. So, and when people come to India, it is again pretty challenging as well. Look, when you are here to play Test cricket, we talk about Test cricket, the ultimate prize, Test cricket being the pinnacle and stuff like that. I think it’s important that we also stand by it. When you are put up against, a challenge like that, you come and face it. That’s what happens in India, but, in India on day one, if the pitch starts turning, people start talking about ‘Puff of dust! Puff of dust!’ There’s so much crack here on the pitch. People are not looking at that,” Rohit added.

Rohit Sharma and South Africa’s skipper Dean Elgar share the trophy after the third Test (ANI)

Rohit also went on to single out match referees and some of the ratings the Indian pitches received in World Cup 2023. The pitch for the World Cup final at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad was rated below average.

Rohit demanded the standards remain neutral.

“I think it’s important that we stay neutral everywhere we go. Especially the match referees. You know, some of these match referees need to keep their eye on how they rate pitches. It’s quite important,” Rohit said.

“I still can’t believe that the World Cup final pitch was rated below average. A batsman got a hundred there in the final. How can that be a poor pitch? So, these are the things the ICC, the match referees, they need to look into and start rating pitches based on what they see, not based on the countries. I think that’s quite important. So I hope they keep their ears open, they keep their eyes open and look into those aspects of the game. Honestly, I’m all for pitches like this. We want to challenge playing on pitches like this. We pride ourselves playing on pitches like this. Uh, but all I wanna say is be neutral,” the India skipper added.

In the two-Test series that concluded on Thursday, South Africa did not bowl any spinner at all. India, however, bowled only 19 overs of spin in the first Test and not a single one in the second innings.

Rohit brought up this point asking why a turner raises more eyebrows than one that seams and bounces as much as the surface at Cape Town.

“Honestly, I would like to see how the pitches are rated. I want to see that. Whatever… that chart, I would love to see it, how they rate the pitches, because Mumbai, Bangalore, Cape Town, Centurion, all different venues, overhead conditions are different. The pitches deteriorate quite fast when the sun is beating down that hard on the pitch. And in India as well, we know that the conditions in India will spin without a doubt, but obviously people don’t like it because it spins from day one. But that’s not the point. If the ball seams from ball one, that’s okay, right, for everyone? That’s not fair. The ball starts spinning from ball one, it should be okay, in my opinion,” Rohit said.

“Otherwise, you stay neutral, and you start rating this kind of pitches also bad, because if you want the ball only to seam and not turn, in my opinion, that is absolutely wrong. So that’s my judgment, that’s my opinion on it. I’ll stick by it because I’ve seen enough of cricket now and I’ve seen enough of how these match referees and the ICC looks into these ratings. I have no issues in how they want to rate, but stay neutral to everything that you do,” the India skipper added.

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