Harbhajan backs home advantage in pitch controversy
New Delhi, Dec 5 (IANS) Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh on Saturday backed the practice of “home advantage”, in reference to the nature of pitches prepared by India for the ongoing Test cricket series against South Africa. India has taken an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the four-match series which are being played on slow, low, prodigiously turning tracks with the first and third matches ending within three days.
The fourth Test is underway here at the Feroz shah Kotla where the action is taking place on a similar track leading to a section of experts, based in the home and abroad, criticising the hosts for stooping too low to win, alleging the absence of “fair play” in the “doctored” tracks. The International Cricket Council (ICC) added fuel to the fire by terming the third Test pitch at Nagpur as “poor”. The allegations have evoked a split response from the cricket community with India Test skipper Virat Kohli and team director Ravi Shastri backing their right to have a pitch of their liking while other have been left not too impressed with the unabashed claim.
The 35-year-old opined that “home advantage” is prevalent in cricket and every host nation has the eight to prepare pitches of their choice. “Whenever any team goes abroad to play, it encounters wickets not conducive to their strengths. Even when we play overseas, it happens. It is not the first time that balls have turned in Indian pitches,” the off-spinner said here, on the sidelines of the launch of a portal named bookmysports.com. “India has been producing spin-oriented wickets for an a long time. If the hosts don’t take advantage of their strengths, who will.” The tweaker though refrained from commenting on the extent to which a host nation can go to seek advantage and refused to comment on ICC’s verdict regarding the Nagpur pitch. “Neither I was in Nagpur, nor did I play the match, so I won’t be able to comment how the wicket was. But I have happy India won the match and the series. I hope they win here too and make it 3-0,” he added. The ‘turbanator’ is primed on performing for his state team Punjab in domestic cricket to cement his place in the national team after making a comeback in the Sri Lanka series earlier this year after a considerable time in the wilderness.
“Right now my focus is only on Ranji Trophy,” India’s third highest wicket-taker with 417 Test scalps said. The Jalandhar-born right-armer also responded defensively to queries regarding the dilemma in the resumption of India-Pakistan cricket. A series, scheduled to start from December 15 in Sri Lanka, awaits the Indian government’s approval. “As a player, I can only do what my parent body asks me to do. If our parent body gives a green light, the play players will happily oblige.”
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