Kolkata pitch row revelations highlight panic among India's cricket establishment
14:56 GMT, 4 December 2012
The narrative in Kolkata this past week has centred, rather unexpectedly, on an old man with a fierce sense of pride and a refusal to be cowed by the BCCI. World cricket's administrators must be looking on in awe.
India had hoped the build-up to the third Test would allow them to stand back and chuckle at yet more wailing and gnashing of teeth over England's ineptitude against spin.
But events in Mumbai changed all that, instead shining a light on the Kolkata pitch and the alleged attempts by the Indian board to prevent the troublesome Prabir Mukherjee – long-standing curator at one of world cricket's most evocative venues and a man presumably absent from MS Dhoni's Christmas-card list – from doing his job.
Bowled over: Dhini has been embroiled in a row with the Kolkata groundsman
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Bear witness: The priest in The Life of Brian couldn't resist using the word Jehovah
For even if the pitch does assist the
slow bowlers, India must still hope for rather more from Ravichandran
Ashwin, who has taken 3 for 278 since the first innings at Ahmedabad.
With Harbhajan Singh set for the chop, the onus will rest unduly on
But just as India will fret about
what may happen if Cheteshwar Pujara fails in their first innings, so
England will be hoping others can take up the slack should Alastair Cook
not reach three figures for the first time in five Tests as captain.
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That may sound harsh on Kevin Pietersen, who was self-evidently magnificent in Mumbai. But his 22 Test hundreds have been scored in 17 different series: he’s more likely to dazzle once than twice.
The rest need to play their part, especially if Steven Finn replaces Stuart Broad, which would mean Swann batting as high as No 8, a position he hasn’t ascended to since Perth two years ago.
And yet while India picked the wrong attack in Mumbai – generously returning the favour after England’s gaffe at Ahmedabad – the English may just have stumbled, partly by accident and partly by design, over their most potent bowling line-up.
If the pitch does their bidding, memories from a painful year will be more easily forgotten.
Ever reliant: Cook has led England from the front, but will need support to win series
THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS
More from Mukherjee
As we have seen, Prabir Mukherjee is plainly no respecter of reputations, and he was at it again yesterday when he was snapped ‘shooing away’ Mike Atherton from the middle of the Eden Gardens pitch.
Athers and Vic Marks – described in one Indian newspaper as ‘a fellow-scribe’ – were hoping for a look at one of the most talked-about strips in recent Test history, but Mukherjee was having none of it.
Ever-ready to provide a quote, and displaying masterful knowledge of his brief, he declared: 'Nobody except the players and match officials are allowed inside the playing arena. He may be an ex-England international, but he’s here as a journalist. He had no business to be there.'
Grounds for concern: Eden Gardens has been at the centre of recent controversy
One punt too many
Proof that Australia is a more sentimental place than it likes to admit could be found in the treatment of Ricky Ponting in Perth. The standing ovations and Ponting’s own, final, salute to Australian crowds were as you’d expect for an all-time great.
We’ll all miss Ponting in our different ways. But is it callous to wonder whether his selection for the third and final Test against South Africa was a triumph of hope over expectation
Ponting himself had admitted before the Test that his time was up, saying his performances against the South Africans had not reached ‘the level required of a batsman in the Australia team’.
No matter: for a game in which victory would have taken Australia to the top of the Test rankings, there was no suggestion at all that Ponting should miss out. Actually, it’s rather nice that this was the case. But let’s not pretend the Australian selectors made a decision that was anything other than misty-eyed.
Slick Rick: Ponting has finally called time on his Aussie career
A belated thought about poor Imran Tahir’s monstering by Australia’s batsmen at Adelaide, where his match return of 0 for 260 was the worst in Test history. As the bowler whose record he broke can testify, these stats can scar a man. Khan Mohammad took 0 for 259 in the Jamaica Test of 1957-58, when Garry Sobers hit his then-world record 365*.
But he deserved better than to be known for those figures alone: his 13-Test career as a seamer for Pakistan brought him 54 wickets at under 24 apiece.
Wisden's Steven Lynch remembers meeting Mohammad when he was coaching at Lord’s some years back, and enquiring about the Sobers innings. The reply betrayed a certain weariness: ‘Everyone always asks me about that. They never ask about when I bowled Len Hutton for 0.’ Tahir beware.
Anderson spreads his wings
Sniffy journalists like to accuse professional sportsmen of lacking a hinterland, as if there’s time to write a novel or learn the oboe in between winning Test matches for their country. So hats off to Jimmy Anderson for agreeing to become executive producer of Warriors, a film directed by Barney Douglas – who provides video content for the ECB – about the role cricket is playing among the Maasai tribespeople of Kenya.
The film, which charts the villagers’ hopes of taking part in a tournament in England and examines some of the darker aspects of Maasai life, is due out in 2013. It’s a terrific idea. But it needs your help. To find out more, and to contribute to the fund-raising drive, please visit http://www.indiegogo.com/warriorsfilm