The India-England pitch palaver continues to roll on and on, with Virat Kohli the latest to have his say on the hot topic.
He, as many are, is tired of the ongoing questions over the matter, and made that clear. “We lost in New Zealand on day three in 36 overs,” said Kohli, referring to a Test in early 2020. “I am sure none of our people wrote about the pitch. It was about how India played badly in New Zealand. None of the pitches were criticized… no one came and saw how much the pitch was doing, how much the ball was moving and how much grass there was on the pitch.
“The reason for our success is we haven’t cribbed about any of the pitches we have played on and we would continue to play like that as a team moving forward as well. It has always been the case – spinning tracks come into focus way more and when the ball seams on a particular pitch and teams get bundled out for 40, 50 or 60.. no one writes about the pitch.”
While Kohli has in the past chosen not to criticise arguably sub-par overseas pitches, some were quick to point out that to suggest India “haven’t cribbed about any of the pitches we have played on” isn’t strictly true.
After the first Test of the current series against England, he pointed to both the surface and the ball as contributing towards India’s heavy defeat. “The reality of the situation is that the pitch was very flat and slow,” he said. “I’m not saying that as an excuse and that we will hold onto as a team. But you have to understand the reality of what went on.
“That was the case in the first two days. Even day three when the wicket really started to change. Before that it was a really flat and slow pitch. When you get big runs on the board the opposition is inevitably put under pressure.
“You have to understand those are the dynamics of cricket and how the game moves forward and works. The quality of ball too was not something we were very pleased to see. That has been an issue in the past as well. The ball seemed to be destroyed in 60 overs and that is not something you experience as a Test side. That was the reality of the first two days.”
While the India captain’s defenders pointed to him saying “I’m not saying that as an excuse and that we will hold onto as a team” as something which makes this not a case of cribbing about pitches, others, including Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth, pointed out that just because you say something isn’t an excuse doesn’t mean it’s not an excuse.
Booth also sought out another example of Kohli complaining of the ground conditions conspiring against him, after India’s Cricket World Cup 2019 group stage defeat against host nation England.
More non-excuses from Kohli: a "crazy short" boundary during the 2019 World Cup game v England at Edgbaston, a boundary both sides had the chance to exploit. Every sports star has always made excuses, whether they admit it to themselves or not https://t.co/nXPSBr50mj
— Lawrence Booth (@the_topspin) March 3, 2021
In this case, it was the location of the pitch, rather than the state of it, that he found issue with. He pointed to a short boundary on one side as having contributed to India’s reversal.
“The toss was vital, especially since the boundary was that short – the shortest you can have,” he said. “It is bizarre on a flat pitch. It is crazy things fall in place randomly. If batsmen are able to reverse sweep you for six on a 59-metre boundary there is not much you can do as a spinner. One side was 82 metres. They had to be a bit smart in the lines they bowled, but you can’t do much with a short boundary.”
The ICC’s playing conditions state a minimum boundary size of 59.43 metres, or 65 yards. A spokesperson for the global governing body confirmed at the time that the location of pitches are determined months in advance of a fixture taking place.