MUMBAI: There is a reason legendary former Australia skipper and ideas pioneer Ian Chappell’s voice is missed in cricket broadcasting, at least by Indian fans, who often get an unpalatable cocktail of hyperbole and cliche in the guise of commentary.
Chappell is unadulterated and no-nonsense, even if it means robustly disagreeing with compatriots, ike he did on Monday.
Speaking from Sydney during a virtual press conference facilitated by Star Sports, Chappell, while previewing the Border Gavaskar Trophy that starts in Nagpur from February 9, shot down former wicketkeeper Ian Healy’s views about the visitors starting with an advantage if wickets are “not unfair”.
Referring to Healy’s views, Chappell stated, “A lot of that is based on what Australia have done at home. They are playing in India. Why anyone would think that India don’t start with an advantage, I don’t know. Anyone who thinks Australia are starting with an advantage are talking through their hat.”
Commenting further, Chappell savagely added, “There is a lot of rubbish spoken about pitches. I believe no one other than the curator should have a say on what kind of
wickets are produced. I don’t think it should be up to the players, manager, or coach. You should just produce a good pitch.”
What is a good pitch, then? Chappell, paraphrasing curators, says, “One on which a team wins after tea on the final day.”
Ravi Shastri, former India all-rounder and coach of the Indian team that won back-to-back Test series Down Under, though is clear about what is a good pitch for him.
“I want the ball to turn from Day 1. Capitalise on your strength,” he proclaimed with Shastri-esque swag.
So, does that mean India will go in with three spinners? A big advocate of playing with five bowlers during his coaching days, Shastri replied in the affirmative, but with a rider: not to finalise your XI until an hour before the game.
“Never predict a playing XI till you see the pitch. It will be three spinners in Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav with Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj as the two pacers.”
Why does he prefer Kuldeep and not Axar Patel, who had a productive series in Bangladesh, late last year and has an enviable home record?
“Jadeja and Axar are similar bowlers. Kuldeep is different. If you lose the toss on Day 1, you need someone who will give it a rip. If anyone can spin it on Day 1, it will be Kuldeep,” Shastri analysed.
The 60-year-old also said that India have a tricky selection call to make while finding an ideal replacement for Rishabh Pant, currently recuperating post-surgery, after a serious car accident in December.
“Pant ticked all the boxes. Not only did his keeping improve, he could get under the skin of the opposition. As a batter, he is so dangerous. Pant has played more match-winning knocks than any of our top five batters in recent times. But the wicketkeeper will be the person who is good with the gloves than with the bat,” he stressed, almost indicating that India may opt for KS Bharat rather than go for a like-for-like replacement, and draft in Ishan Kishan.
Shastri also reckoned that India may hand a Test debut to T20 star Suryakumar Yadav, even if it means making the tough choice of playing him over Shubman Gill. While Shastri would want Gill in the team, he feels India must pick the right guy for the No. 5 position.
“If you want to do well in India, you must rotate strike and not let bowlers bowl maidens. Blocking won’t help. A quick 30 or 40 could decide the game. Surya can get runs quickly and disrupt the opposition,” Shastri felt.\
Adding another layer of mystery to their curious relationship, Shastri concluded with some sagely but unsolicited advice for Ashwin: don’t over plan. Shastri said, “You don’t want Ashwin to over-think and try too many things. Just keep it there and let the pitch do the rest. If Ashwin is on fire, that might decide the outcome of the series.”