Ahead of the Calcutta Test, there has been a bit of controversy with the Eden Gardens groundsman apparently at odds with the BCCI. The BCCI have sent a representative to ‘assist’ with the preparation of the pitch after the groundsman expressed a reluctance to produce MS Dhoni’s requested square turner and the groundsman even called it ‘immoral’.
I do have slightly mixed feelings about this. One the one hand it is certainly not immoral or really in any way wrong to prepare a ‘home’ pitch. That’s what home advantage is. In England the pitches will have a bit for the seamers and in India they will turn and I don’t see any ethical reason why those should not be exaggerated if the team thinks it will be a good idea. Certainly the last thing one would want is dull, uniformly flat Test pitches the world over. I do think it would be a good idea to have more turning pitches in English domestic cricket to better prepare the younger players for foreign conditions, but for Tests anywhere in the world it makes sense for teams to prepare a helpful wicket.
But the problem is that even if I disagree with the Eden Gardens groundsman about the ethics of home pitches, it is still his pitch. The BCCI and MS Dhoni can ask for a turning pitch just as the ECB could ask for a greentop, but whether or not they get it is down to the groundsman. Sending in a representative to ‘assist’ him (followed by the groundsman asking for a leave of absence in protest) is simply the usual heavy-handed tactics of the BCCI. Not that I would at this point expect anything less of them, but it is still odious.
The odd point in all of it is that although I don’t think the reasoning of the groundsman is sound, the BCCI and MS Dhoni may be shooting themselves in the foot by going so far to impose their will on him. Even if England don’t bat as well in Calcutta as they did in Mumbai, they will certainly much rather another spinning surface where they can keep themselves in the match than another flat, slow wicket that takes their bowlers completely out of the match. England’s spinners comfortably outperformed their Indian counterparts in Mumbai and although it is perfectly possible that India can come back in Calcutta they will have a better chance with a wicket closer to the one in Ahmedabad.