Joe Root insisted it was up to the International Cricket Council to decide whether the pitch in Ahmedabad was fit for purpose following a punishing third Test defeat to India inside two days that he felt “robbed” the spectators.
Lasting just 140.2 overs and featuring 17 wickets on day two, the day-night Test between India and England was the shortest completed match by way of balls bowled since 1935 and saw the hosts take a 2-1 lead in the series with one to play. Spinners accounted for 28 of the 30 batsmen to fall, with Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin the destroyers-in-chief by rolling England for just 81 in their second innings before India’s openers knocked off a target of just 49 in less than eight overs.
The speed of the contest led Yuvraj Singh, the former India all-rounder, to tweet: “Not sure if that’s good for Test cricket”, while Alastair Cook, the former England captain, said “something that doesn’t quite sit right” about a surface that, like the second Test in Chennai, was prepared to turn early.
Root, however, stopped short of criticising the pitch directly. He instead accused of his side of blowing the best of what were tough conditions after they collapsed from 74 for two to 112 all out on day one and said he was happy to defer to the game’s governing body on the issue of whether any action should follow.
“I think that that surface was a very challenging one, a very difficult one to play on,” said Root, whose own off-breaks had earlier claimed five for eight. “But it’s not for players to decide if it’s fit for purpose; that’s up to the ICC. I’m paid to play the game, not make those decisions, but it’s something that I’m sure they’ll look at off the back of the last couple of matches.
“It’s a real shame because it’s a fantastic stadium, 40,000 people have come to watch a brilliant, iconic Test match and I feel for them. They came to watch Virat Kohli face Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach and Ravichandran Ashwin against our top batsmen like Ben Stokes. I almost feel like they’ve been robbed. Instead they had to watch me get wickets on there, which shouldn’t be the case. That’s a frustration for a lot of people. The fact is it was challenging for both teams and credit to India, they outplayed us on that wicket.”
Any action taken by the ICC would go against the host venue rather than the home board but Virat Kohli, whose side had earlier seen an overnight 99 for three become 145 all out, believed the players were chiefly to blame. He said: “The result went our way but the quality of batting wasn’t at all up to standard by both teams. There was a lack of application from both sides.
“Our bowlers were much more effective and that’s why we got the result. It was bizarre that 21 of the 30 wickets were off straight balls, I think it was just a lack of concentration. I think batsmen need to trust their defence much more than they’re presenting at the moment.”
Either way, England’s decision to select a four-pronged seam attack – one which left off-spinner Dom Bess out of the XI – was shown up to be a flawed one, even if Root insisted there was sound logic behind it. “We thought the wicket would hold together better than it did – throughout all the practice days it seamed around, it swung and the seamers looked a threatening option,” he said. “It’s easy in hindsight to select a different team.”
The result means England are now out of the running to meet New Zealand in the final of the ICC World Test Championship in June, with India needing to avoid defeat in the fourth Test to seal their berth. Lose and it will be Australia who qualify.
India will be in England this summer regardless, with a five-Test series starting in August. Asked whether he would be requesting lavish green seamers for this encounter, Root replied: “We want to play on a really good wicket. If we are going to develop as a team and compete everywhere in the world, we are going to have to get used to scoring big runs consistently, we are going to have to get used to bowling on good surfaces and finding ways to take 20 wickets.”