PROLONGED and public rows over the condition of the Kolkata pitch for today’s third Test between India and England clearly illustrate one thing: the hosts, and in particular their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are feeling extreme pressure.
The Indian cricket press and public are perhaps the most fervent in the world, and expect their team to be the best and win every home match. But they are also deeply knowledgeable about the game, and recognise when their team has been soundly beaten.
England’s emphatic 10-wicket triumph in Mumbai took them aback. After India’s victory in the equally one-sided first match, they didn’t think Alastair Cook and his men had it in them. Suddenly they had a fight on their hands.
The demands Dhoni made of the Kolkata groundstaff, in this case for a spin-friendly wicket, are nothing new; captains everywhere do it and I know for a fact that England have. But he made a mistake in allowing it to become public.
In any case, his request won’t make any difference to the pitch. Groundsmen tend not to be Yes Men. They think of their own reputation before the national team; they’ll listen but then do their own thing anyway.
Nor can I see it affecting the outcome of the match. If it’s a more seam-friendly wicket, it will suit England better as they have better fast-bowlers, while the tourists showed in Mumbai that their spinners more than match India’s.
Meanwhile I’m firmly in favour of England’s appointment of Ashley Giles as coach of the one-day and Twenty20 sides. I’ve long advocated a division between England’s teams, which need different preparations and, often, different players.
It would be very hard for Andy Flower to cover all angles well, and Giles is experienced in all aspects of the game and has done very well with Warwickshire. Talk of him succeeding Flower as head coach may be premature right now, but this move is an ideal stepping stone.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer. He has also been captain and chairman of Warwickshire.