India cricket great Ravi Shastri has savaged claims the nation is “cheating” with its handling of the Nagpur pitch for the first Test against Australia.
Controversy has broken out in the days before the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series opener after pictures of the groundskeepers working on specific areas of the wicket emerged.
Journalists captured staffers watering the centre of the pitch and the off-side for right-handers, but left the leg-side dry and only rolled the centre of the wicket, the suggestion being it will hurt left-handed batters.
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Australia has a left-handed-heavy line-up including five of the top seven from the SCG Test, though Matt Renshaw is reportedly unlikely to re-join David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Travis Head and Alex Carey, with right-handed Peter Handscomb favoured.
Speaking on SEN’s Sportsday, co-host Kane Cornes put it to Shastri that the “pretty dry” pitch amounted to “cheating”.
“That is bulls**t!” the Indian legend exclaimed.
“It’s more hype than anything else surrounding this first Test match.
“It always happens, you get 15mm grass, 18mm grass or 12mm grass in different places around the ground … at the end of this first Test, I’m sure there’ll be someone who scores a hundred.
“If someone can get a hundred or 80-plus on that pitch, they’ve played well and he will go and say, ‘What’s wrong with the pitch? You stay there, you apply yourself, your shot selection is good, you get runs’.
“But if you go out there and think you’re going to smash every ball, good luck to you.”
Shastri conceded the hosts are within their rights to do what they want with the pitch.
“If the ball is going to turn from there, so be it,” Shastri said.
“So what? It’s home conditions, do what suits you, both teams have to play on the surface, there’s a match referee who is the boss, it’s as simple as that.
“We never complained about pitches, in my career we never complained about a simple pitch.
“No excuses, just get on with it, at the end of three days no one’s going to get killed on that surface.
“The quality of the camera lenses is so good, they can make green grass look brown, that’s what you expect in India, come on.”
Amid all of the discussion of the pitch the Aussie team has made a point not to buy in, with captain Pat Cummins saying they were “embracing the chaos”.
“These series always throw up different challenges on the field or off the field, and embracing it is what makes these tours so special,” Cummins said.
“That’s part of the challenge of playing away. Home teams want to win at home. In Australia, we’re lucky we’ve normally got pace and bounce.
“Home match advantage, I don’t think it’s a terrible thing. It’s another challenge and makes touring over here even harder when you know the conditions are custom-made for them.”
Originally published as ‘That’s bulls**t’: Indian legend savages ‘cheating’ claims over controversial first Test pitch