The third test of ongoing India vs South Africa series at Wanderers Cricket Stadium Johannesburg was full of action, drama and suspense as the visitors embarked on a tough Journey. It was sure that pitch would remain a talking point throughout the tour considering the surfaces which India presented for the protease in the last series in 2015-16. However, no one expected that one of the surfaces which will take centre stage for being too dangerous to play.
Our cricket analyst Abhishek Srivastava takes a look at top-five pitch fiascos in recent times.
West Indies vs England – 1st Test- Sabina Park, Jamaica (1997-98):
In 1997-98, when Michel Atherton’s men were touring West Indies, they had to deal with fearsome Windies pace battery as well as a dangerous pitch with a perilous bounce in the first test at Sabina Park. In fact, the bounce was deemed to be threatening for players safety. England were 17-3 in 10.1 overs in 66 minutes of play.
Alec Stewart was hit almost half a dozen times, on fingers, chest and arm. At last, the umpires had enough, and the test was abandoned for the first time in the history of Cricket.
India vs Sri Lanka – 2nd ODI – Nehru Stadium, Indore (1997-98):
The Second ODI of the series between India and Sri Lanka had to be abandoned due to the underprepared pitch which was showing dangerous signs of variable bounce. It took only 18 balls for umpires Subroto Porel and Devendra Sharma to understand that the surface was not fit for play.
During these 18 balls, Roshan Mahanama and Sanath Jayasuriya received many balls on their bodies. Ultimately a ball from Javagal Srinath that reared up and hit Mahanama’s finger forced umpires and captain Sachin Tendulkar and Arjuna Ranatunga to call it off and play an exhibition match on the pitch adjacent to it for crowd’s sake.
West Indies vs England – 2nd Test -Sir Viv Richards Stadium, Antigua(2008-09):
West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) had to face another embarrassment as the second test between England and West Indies was called off due to the sandy outfield which was deemed to be too risky for the bowlers.
It took only 10 deliveries for umpires to halt the play which already was under scrutiny after Fidel Edwards lost strides three times in a row due to the issues on runup areas.
After a lengthy discussion between the captains, and on-field umpires, the ICC match referee had no option but to abandon the game.
India vs Sri Lanka – 5th ODI- Ferozshah Kotla, Delhi (2009-10):
It is a coincidence that first few matches which were called off due to poor pitch happened to be in India and West Indies against the same opponent and almost in the same season or same year.
The Fifth ODI between India and Srilanka at Delhi’s Ferozshah Kotla was called off after 23.3 overs due to the pitch being very dangerous for player’s safety.
Sri Lanka batsmen were quite lucky that on a variable pitch they were hit only twice else the damage could have been nastier. The span of 23.3 overs was full of drama. Dilshan was hit multiple times by Zaheer, Ashish Nehra and Sudeep Tyagi but when a Tyagi delivery reared over MS Dhoni, Sri Lankan seniors had enough, and they came in the ground involving all the officials. The game was ultimately abandoned.
India vs South Africa – 3rd Test – Green Park, Kanpur (2007-08):
It may not require a pitch to be rated as poor only when it is dangerous to play; there are times when games are completed but the pitch comes under heavy scrutiny. Among many such instances on the list is the third test when South Africa toured India in 2007-08.
The Protease were leading the series 1-0 going in third test and India asked the curators to go for a turning pitch. However, ground staff failed to keep it under control, and the pitch showed excessive signs of turn and variable bounce right from the first session of the test match.
“My considered view is that the pitch was poor as it was too dry and had a considerable turn and variable bounce from the first day… The pitch was not up to Test match standards,” said Match Referee Roshan Mahanama in his report.
India squared the series 1-1, but there was immense criticism on the mode they adopted to achieve this fate.