How Ranchi Pitch Went Against India’s Expectations

Published By: Sahil Malhotra

Last Updated: February 24, 2024, 19:34 IST

Team India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey says the hosts need to bat better to remain in the contest (AP Photo)

Team India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey says the hosts need to bat better to remain in the contest (AP Photo)

Indian team management were prepared for Ranchi pitch to be on the slower side but not for variable bounce so early in the Test.

Close to stumps on Day 2, former England cricketer Stuart Broad expressed his thoughts in a very straightforward tweet on the Ranchi pitch. Seeing the hosts struggle in their own backyard, the seamer felt “playing on pitches that roll along the floor brings in the opposition so much more”. Broad was bang on with his observation as in the previous two Tests, India managed to outplay England on surfaces which remained true on the first two days and only assisted spin as the game progressed.

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The Ranchi pitch, however, showed its contrasting nature as early as the opening day of the Test where the ball did a lot for the seamers in the morning session, one kept really low for Ben Stokes and then became a very good surface to bat on when the morning moisture evaporated. England were reduced to 112/5 at Lunch on Day 1 but batting became much easier as the day progressed. The odd one was still keeping low but there wasn’t any significant spin threat and the 22 yards was a complete “contrast” from the morning session.

“There was some moisture in the wicket yesterday and we knew the first session was going to be critical both with bat and ball. Picking five wickets was a brilliant session for us as there was some moisture and the ball was cutting off the surface. We saw how Akash Deep did that. But when we looked at the wicket post Lunch, it was a total contrast.

“The moisture evaporated, it became slow and wasn’t turning much. It was a brilliant session to bat and even the session after that. As the game progressed, the wicket became better for batting. We will see where we could have done better with the ball and that discussion with regards to bowling in the areas and field placements has already been discussed,” says India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey.

Variable bounce surprises hosts

More than turn or help for the seamers on Day 1, it was the variable bounce on the lower side which even surprised the Indian think-tank. The hosts’ camp expected the pitch to be on the slower side but were not expecting it to play that low.

“We didn’t expect it to be playing that low on the second day itself. I think a couple of balls did keep low in the first innings as well, but that’s what we didn’t expect. We expected it to get slower as the day progressed, but not the variable bounce that we’ve seen in the last couple of days. That’s something that we were not expecting,” explains Mhambrey.

Across two days and six sessions, 17 wickets have fallen and spinners have picked 11 of those. While only two went to spin on the opening day, Day 2 was a happy hunting day for the tweakers who exploited the variable bounce. It was Jadeja who added three to his tally and then it was young Shoaib Bashir’s show which trapped India in a spin-web. Playing only his second Test, Bashir bowled non-stop for 31 overs and ran through India’s batting order in the process. Mhambrey praised the youngster for keeping it simple and added India need to bat better when they come out to chase in the fourth innings.

“What we really need to look at is, we’re gonna chase, right? The target, the number, will differ, but mentally we need to chase. We need to bat well in the second innings, whatever the target is. Let’s keep it that simple. First is just the partnership, take it as close [as possible] to the target [England total], and we need to bat better,” says Mhambrey.

ALSO READ | IND vs ENG 4th Test Day 2: Different Pitch, Same Script as India Struggle on Ranchi Turner

No instructions

2-1 up in the five-Test series, India were in complete control. The batters had runs under their belt and bowlers were able to dominate different periods on play, on different surfaces. The Ranchi pitch, coupled with some brilliant performances with both bat and ball, has allowed England to claw their way back into the series and saw them end both days in a comfortable position. Mhambrey asserts there weren’t any “instructions” for a turner from the management and it’s just the “variable bounce” which has made batting difficult. The bowling coach adds the pitch is not a “turner”.

“Firstly, venues are not something we can control. This was a venue allotted for the series as well. The way the wicket plays out here has always been similar. It has always not been a rank-turner. I wouldn’t call this a rank turner because there was variable bounce. I don’t think too many balls spun sharply from the wicket and there was variable bounce on the lower side. That made batting difficult.

“But that’s the nature of the soil and there was no specific instruction of a rank turner from our side. It was a similar wicket to Saurashtra which turned a little bit. We expected it to be similar but the soil out here is different and you can’t guarantee the exact wicket you want. There, honestly, weren’t any instructions that we needed a turner. I don’t think it is a turner as of now. It’s just the low bounce which is making batting a little difficult. I don’t think there has been any ball which has really spun to call it a turning wicket here,” says Mhambrey.

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