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Uneven bounce is not a condition, it's an anomaly


Deja Vu. Everyone is thinking it. India won the first Test against England and lost the series. India are on the verge of winning the first Test against Australia too. Will there be an encore? I remain reserved on the issue. Australia's team selection was wrong. India batted well but were lucky they didn't have to bat third. The uneven bounce could have had any player in trouble.

From the first day itself, the Chennai wicket began to resemble a road in India after the rains. By the fourth day it was scuffed up. The ball began to turn quite sharply while the bounce was uneven.

When teams from the sub-continent travel abroad, they are often presented with tracks that suit bounce and seam and that are fast. The opposition team unleashes its gaggle of fast bowlers and bundles out the team. Point in case – Pakistan against South Africa. It is only fair that the sub-continent teams play to their strengths when playing at home.

Trying to create similar conditions everywhere is a distasteful solution and perhaps not possible. The difference in pitches only adds to the beauty of cricket, especially Tests. Hence, whether or not to produce turners shouldn't be the question. However, pitches that offer uneven bounce shouldn't be dished out. If the bounce is low, it should be low all the time. Batsmen can adjust to that. If the ball is turning square, batsmen should find a way to deal with it. But when the ball jumps up from the rough, it is next to impossible to find the correct technique to survive. The only thing a batsman can do is look to score runs and hope to God he doesn't get a ball that jumps up or stays so low that it kisses his ankle before crashing into the base of the stumps.

Shane Watson's wicket in the second innings is a case of beautiful bowling. The ball dipped and bounced further away than Watson felt it would and took the glove. The wicket of Phil Hughes wasn't brilliant bowling. The ball was short and wide and Hughes can't be blamed for looking to cut it away. He went back and across but the ball bounced unexpectedly and took the top edge of the bat. If the ball had simply spun, he could have jammed the bat down in time.  

When such a delivery happens once in 50 overs, it's understandable. When every delivery seems to possess the inherent ability of a cobra, it makes life difficult for the batsman. It could be argued that nothing happened when India were batting. True. But the sun beat down on the wicket and dried it even further and in pursuit of maybe a 100, it wouldn't be surprising if India lost a few wickets.

Playing seam or spin, the key according to experts is playing late. Don't line the ball up and look to play straight. There is a technique to playing in every condition. There is no sure shot way of handling uneven bounce. It is not a playing condition, it is an anomaly. Spin and bounce should be the sub-continent flavour, not spin and uneven bounce.

There are a few things that the first Test has revealed. Australia's batting depends a lot on Michael Clarke (obvious before the Test too). James Pattinson is a smart and strong bowler. Nathan Lyon cannot play the lead. Harbhajan Singh does not deserve to be in the Indian team. Sachin Tendulkar still can perform. Kohli will do well in Tests. Sehwag and Vijay should make way and despite the double century, Dhoni is still unconvincing as a Test batsman.

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