How Australia’s perfect ‘soil-testing’ at Modi stadium gave them World Cup 2023 & left Ashwin ‘flabbergasted’
Australia have played a number of bilateral games in India this year besides their players taking part in the IPL, helping them to decode the Indian conditions.
India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (ANI Photo)
MORE than a billion Indian hearts were shattered on Sunday (19) when Australia defeated the hosts at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat to lift their sixth World Cup crown. The Men in Blue were undefeated in 10 matches till the final but failed to rise on D-Day, losing by six wickets after getting bowled out for 240 on a surface that changed for the better under the lights.
Many were perplexed by the situation as they expected Australia to have taken a wrong call and would crumble under pressure. But Pat Cummins’s side displayed a clinical show with the ball and fielded like champions to restrict the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up. India started well to pick three quick Australian wickets but opener Travis Head, who looked nervous at the start, ran away with the game with a century along with Marnus Labuschagne, who remained unbeaten on half-century.
India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who played only one game in the entire World Cup and which was against Australia in Chennai on October 8 and picked a wicket, conceded after the game that he was “deceived” by the Australia captain’s decision to field. He said the Kangaroos generally prefer to bat first in a big game and the change of idea was something not expected.
Speaking on his official YouTube channel, the 37-year-old, said, “Australia has deceived me, personally. As Australia’s history goes by, they say, ‘we are gonna have a bat, mate!’ after winning the toss in the big finals. I was praying to the lords that Australia should do that, because many people do not understand that the soil in Ahmedabad was like Orissa’s, as in, it played like how any soil taken from the eastern part of the country would play. If every pitch gets a bounce until the knee, this will get bounce only up to the shin. So, the bounce will be less but the soil won’t disintegrate because the clay does not release the moisture but holds it.”
Ashwin’s thought was proved to be true when he spoke to George Bailey, Australia’s chief selector, during the break and he was “flabbergasted”.
The visitors were clearly thinking miles ahead of the hosts and beat them in reading the pitch perfectly. None of the two India spinners who played in the match got any wicket.
“I was checking out if the pitch was disintegrating at the mid-innings and I met George Bailey, the chief selector. I asked, ‘why didn’t you guys bat first like you always do after winning the toss?’ For that, he answered back, ‘We have played IPL and bilateral series for a long time now, and in our experience, the red soil disintegrates but the black soil gets better to bat on under lights. Dew is not a big impact on red soil whereas black soil pitches are good turners in afternoon, but in night, the pitch solidifies into a patta wicket and plays as though it is made of concrete’,” he said.
Ashwin added that with overseas players playing in Indian conditions often, thanks to the yearly Indian Premier League and bilateral matches, pitch is no more a mystery for them.
Australia have played much cricket in India this year across all formats. They played four Tests and three one-day internationals in February and March. They again played three one-day international games just before the World Cup followed by 11 matches in the tournament. They also played one warm-up game before the World Cup and after the tournament, were playing a five T20-match series against India.