The Indore Test pitch that produced 31 wickets in six-and-a-half sessions between India and Australia has been hit with a “poor” rating by the International Cricket Council.
Match referee Chris Broad wasted no time handing down his verdict, with the ICC confirming the rating about seven hours after Australia completed an upset nine-wicket victory before lunch on day three of the match at Holkar Stadium.
“The pitch, which was very dry, did not provide a balance between bat and ball, favouring spinners from the start,” Broad said.
“The fifth ball of the match broke through the pitch surface and continued to occasionally break the surface providing little or no seam movement and there was excessive and uneven bounce throughout the match.”
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Poor ratings for pitches cost venues three demerit points, with any ground that accrues five demerits over a five-year period in danger of being banned from hosting international cricket for 12 months.
Out of the 31 wickets to fall, 26 were taken by spinners as Australians Nathan Lyon and Matt Kuhnemann enjoyed success, while Indian pair Ravi Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin continued their dominant form.
India demolished Australia in the first two Tests in Nagpur and Delhi, with conditions dramatically suiting spinners, and the ICC gave both those venues “average” ratings.
But it was clear from day one in Indore, this pitch was going to offer even more for spinners as balls turned and bounced sharply.
Indore was a last-minute choice to host the third Test after the BCCI on February 12 deemed the ground in Dharamsala to be unsuitable for the match.
The BCCI have 14 days to decide if they wish to appeal the sanction.
Sharma shirty over pitch talk
Before the match, India captain Rohit Sharma has raised the prospect of the fourth and final Test against in Ahmedabad being played on a green pitch to allow the hosts to prepare for the WTC decider, to be played at The Oval in London in June.
But the 35-year-old was aggrieved when asked about that potential scenario on Friday, telling the journalist to focus more on individual performances.
“This pitch talk is getting too much,” Sharma said. “Every time we play in India, it’s always about the pitch.
“We focus too much on the pitch here in India and I feel that’s not necessary.”
India won the first two Tests in Nagpur and Delhi, with conditions dramatically suiting spinners.
While disappointed to lose by nine wickets, Sharma backed his team to succeed on turning, difficult pitches at home.
“It was our call to play on such pitches. We knew that we could face challenges as well, but we were ready for these challenges,” Sharma said. “We want to play to our strength at home and not worry what the people outside are talking about. Our strength is spin and our batting depth.
“People have to play well for the game to last for five days. Games are not lasting for five days, even outside India.”
Acting Australia captain Steve Smith said Usman Khawaja and Indian No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara had proved runs could be scored on tough pitches.
“I personally really enjoy playing on these kind of wickets, I prefer this than just a genuine flat wicket that goes five days and can be boring in stages,” Smith said.
“Guys can do it, you’ve got to work hard for them and you need some luck.
“With this one, whether it might have been a little bit too extreme, potentially from the first ball, I’m not really entirely sure – but it was still enjoyable.”
My days as full-time Test captain are ‘done’: Smith
Steve Smith has shot down any talk of becoming Test captain again on a full-time basis after leading Australia to a memorable win against India in Indore.
The star batter was filling in as skipper for the third Test after captain Pat Cummins returned home to Sydney last week to be with his seriously ill mother Maria.
Smith, who is Australia’s vice-captain, has stepped in as skipper three times since Cummins became Test captain in November 2021.
Cummins has intended to return for the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad next week but it will depend on his delicate family situation.
Before the match, Smith declared captaincy brought out the best in him and he was looking to the challenge, expressing his sympathy for Cummins at the same time.
The 33-year-old was asked about his captaincy ambitions after Australia’s nine-wicket triumph on Friday.
“My time is done. It’s Pat’s team now,” Smith said.
“I’ve obviously been able to stand in this week, obviously in tough circumstances with Patty going home.
“Our thoughts are still with him back home. But India is a part of the world I love captaining … it’s probably my favourite place in the world to captain.
“Every ball is an event and therefore can dictate what happens after, which is something that I really love and you’ve got to be ahead of the game. So I thought I did it well this week and it was good fun.”
Smith captained Australia between 2014 and 2018 but was stripped of the honour and banned from playing for a year following the infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.
His captaincy drew praise from star spinner Nathan Lyon, who hailed Smith’s classic, match-defining, catch late on day two.
Smith has had troubles with a degenerative back issue, putting down a number of catches in slips during this series, but he managed a spectacular effort late on Thursday.
The catch was to dismiss the stoic Cheteshwar Pujara, so often Australia’s nemesis, when the veteran No.3 appeared to be pushing India towards a handy lead.
Pujara’s dismissal for 59 led to India’s second innings ending sooner than the hosts had hoped, setting Australia a chase of just 76.
“This is no disrespect to anyone else in that changing room, but I don’t think anyone else is catching it,” Lyon said. “That’s just me bowling from one end and looking up and seeing Steve Smith at slip or leg slip and having that confidence as a bowler.
“Yes he has dropped a couple here and there but I wouldn’t trade him for anyone.”
Smith was thrilled to dismiss the dangerous Pujara at a crucial stage. “Catches in this part of the wold can win or lose you games,” he said.
“I think back to Bangalore in 2017 I dropped Pujara and then he went on to make a big score. Fortunately this one stuck and we were able to get over the line.”