For Daljit, introducing grass on Indian pitches highest point
MOHALI: On the eve of his farewell game as a BCCI curator, Daljit Singh looked fondly at the pitch in Mohali and shared an interesting anecdote. "It was the 1996 World Cup semifinal. When Curtly Ambrose’s ball flew past Mark Waugh and the wicketkeeper had to leap to gather it, an administrator jumped from his seat and exclaimed: ‘What have you made, Daljit’?”
The Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium here has always boasted of fast and bouncy pitches. The characteristic of the pitch was unlike any other in India. However, the ‘fast and bouncy’ tag came when the West Indian bowlers hurt and bounced out India to level the Test series in 1994.
“Both teams scored well in their first innings. The desperate Windies bowlers came out firing four bouncers in an over in the second innings. Manoj Prabhakar had to be stretchered off after a ball hit his nose. There was a pool of blood on the pitch. The tag of fast and bouncy pitch came from that match,” Daljit told TOI.
Daljit takes pride in that tag. It was the start of the evolution of pitches in India as he went on to become the chairman of BCCI’s pitches and grounds committee. He headed that committee for 15 years out of the 22 years of his service to the board.
“IS Bindra brought me here to make this ground. He had told me to make something different from the usual slow turning pitches. He stood by me all through and then Sharad Pawar went out of his way in early 2000s to convince every state association to buy advanced equipment to improve the quality of pitches and grounds across the country,” the 77-year-old, who took inspiration from golf courses, recalled.
For him, grass was his most important contribution. “People only believed that grass binds the pitch together. Grass actually facilitates transpiration and as it grows deeper into the surface, the pitch gets harder. The three-layering of the pitches had to be standardized to have good grass. Rolling patterns had to be changed,” he stated.
Much of Indian cricket’s recent success in overseas conditions is attributed to the improvement of pitches in domestic cricket. “I stipulated that every pitch should have at least 6-8 inches of grass. Then the seamers came into play. It took a long time to convince and get everybody on board. I must say BCCI has been very pragmatic and curbed home teams’ interference.”
That brings us to the most talked-about topic — home advantage even for international series.
“Curators should listen to the captain and the coach but he should know what’s good for the game. Home advantage is about knowing the conditions you have grown in. It doesn’t mean you make an akhara (wrestling pit). The Test we lost to Australia in Pune in 2017 is a good example. Anyway, stringent regulations call for suspension of venues these days,” Daljit said.