There is nothing wrong with cricket teams using home conditions to their advantage. It’s what makes winning a Test series abroad so much more prized than winning at home. Teams have the opportunity to conquer new land, build empires and dominate if they are up for the challenge.
Home sides should be given just as much opportunity to defend their land from invasion. It wouldn’t be a challenge for a touring team if they were given pitches they were used to. If every pitch were the same it would just come down to their ranking. Cricket would become boring. Watching England come within inches of a win in Abu Dhabi was thrilling. They had buckled down on the first few days to rack up the runs on a dead track. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid then exploited the spinning conditions on the fifth day before the batsmen came out all guns blazing. This was the definition of an invasion (an unsuccessful one, but a valiant effort nonetheless). It was not where they were playing that lost them the series but how. They had shown what they were capable of in the first test.
When the Ashes series was played in England this year, people wept at how Lords could have produced such an emotionless pitch as England were punished for not playing to their advantages. The next two tests were finished off in three days but the fifth test showed us once again it was about the application of the players and not just home advantage. It was not a unreasonable task for a side as strong as Australia, a win was always on the cards.
Overall, this Ashes was one of the shortest Ashes series’ of all time. Batsmen appear to have lost the ability to apply themselves. The level of one day cricket is poisoning Test matches. Players like Cheteshwar Pujara who could do wonders for the Indian ODI squad are left out to remain a ‘test specialist’ while most other batsmen are given a free ticket to play all formats and bring their hit out or get out temperament into Test cricket.
It is not the pitch that is the problem in modern day Tests. We don’t complain about conditions in a one day game. Test cricket has become stuck, no matter where a game is being played. Batsmen are not picked based on their ability to play in certain conditions and they no longer understand the importance of building an innings. A set team is usually chosen to play all over the world. Rohit Sharma was left out of an Indian side playing at home on a turning pitch. Conditions that would have been perfect for him. Whilst Ajinkya Rahane, the more skilled batsman away from home continued to play and struggled against the spin.
Players like Brian Lara and Rahul Dravid are in short supply these days. It is because Test cricket is no longer regarded as the pinnacle of cricket to those other than die hard fans but it needs to be once again. It is not the pitches that need to change, it’s the mindset around the game.