Nagpur curator reveals when Ganguly sat out Test match after seeing green pitch
Nagpur-based pitch curator Kishore Pradhan says he holds "no regrets" for the surface created under his supervision for the 2004 Test match between India and Australia. Pradhan says if he were to re-do the track, he would prepare the same pitch.
With the track for the opening Test of the looming Border-Gavaskar Trophy, also at the same venue, in the limelight for its selective watering and rolling, we cast our minds back to 19 years back when the Australians were in town and the pitch in Nagpur became a cause of fiasco.
Down 1-0 in the four-Test series, India under skipper Sourav Ganguly were hoping for some respite from the home conditions against the mighty Aussies for the third game. But they were in for a surprise when the pitch offered a layer of grass that enabled bounce and movement for the seamers.
As the story goes, Ganguly was left unimpressed by the surface and told Pradhan and the rest of the ground staff that they had hoped for a spin-friendly track since it suited their strengths with Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh leading the punch on the bowling front.
Why Ganguly skipped the Nagpur Test
Recalling the whole controversial episode in an interview with The New Indian Express, Pradhan said the moment Ganguly saw the pitch ahead of the Test match he was very disappointed and complained about it to the curating team. Pradhan told the then India captain that the pitch hasn't been made at his wishes entirely and that the then Vidarbha Cricket Association (ACA) chief Shashank Mahohar is partly responsible for the deck.
Ganguly went up to Manohar, who also refused to budge to the captain's wish for the change of the track, leading to the infamous pull-out, wherein the Indian skipper is accused of skipping the game due to the conflict. Ganguly cited an injury for his decision, as did off-spinner Harbhajan.
"Once (Sourav) Ganguly saw the pitch, he thought I prepared it on my own. He spoke to me explaining the strengths and weaknesses of both teams. He then met the then VCA president Shashank Manohar," Pradhan said.
"I also told him that the surface has been prepared in consultation with the VCA chief and coach K Jayantilal. ‘This is the wicket we have prepared and you have to play on it’, I tried explaining to Ganguly."
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As it panned out, Australia piled on a decisive 398 in the first half before dismissing the hosts for a paltry 185, with Jason Gillespie taking a five-fer. Gillespie added four more wickets to his match tally in the second half, where the tourists bundled out Indians for another poor-looking score of 200, chasing a mammoth 542.
"There were no demons on the pitch," Pradhan stands firm even today. "It was all about applying yourself but unfortunately, our batters lost the battle in the mind even before the start of the contest."
"If given an opportunity, I will lay out the same wicket," he added. "I always wanted to prepare pacy and bouncy wickets. How else our batters will learn to play on them? These days, it’s the opposite as they can now play on fast wickets but tend to struggle on spinning tracks.
"Mr G Kasturirangan, the then chairman of the BCCI grounds and pitches committee, praised me for the wicket."