Amla plays straight bat over pitch issue

DELHI — That winning and losing are relative concepts was vividly illustrated by Virat Kohli and Hashim Amla yesterday as they prepared to lead their teams in the fourth Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla today.

Amla’s team is without Dale Steyn, ruled out due to injury.

Kohli left his temper tantrum of a news conference having been beaten in another competitive inquisition with reporters about the overt help his spinners were afforded by the pitches in Mohali and Nagpur.

The evidence was damning long before the International Cricket Council (ICC) said on Tuesday match referee Jeff Crowe had rated the Nagpur pitch as “poor”.

SA have been the No1 Test team for 37 of the past 40 months and before this series, they last went down in a rubber on the road nine years ago.

But 47 of the 50 wickets they have lost in India have fallen to slow bowlers, while the Nagpur match marked the only time in the 247 Tests played in this country since the inaugural match here in December 1933 that no batsman reached 50.

The media room was still fetid with frustration an hour or so after Kohli left when Amla arrived to beam his beatific smile and answer the questions put to him with perfect politeness.

That job done cheerfully, the SA skipper strolled out looking like he had not felt the slightest flutter in his equilibrium.

And why should he? Despite SA having lost the series, the heat was on an Indian team widely considered to be trumpeting a hollow, flawed, undeserved victory as something to be celebrated.

In fact, it was left to Amla to take the heat off SA’s opponents.

“Whatever happened in the last Test, I don’t think will leave any tattoos on the team because it was a difficult Test for everybody — for India and also for us,” Amla said.

He had his audience laughing out loud after he was asked what his first look at the Delhi pitch had told him about how it would play.

“It looks like a good wicket,” Amla answered, before issuing a disclaimer: “But wickets can change overnight.”

Amla went beyond the call of duty by selling the idea of playing Tests on dodgy pitches, all the better to keep those boring batsmen from dominating proceedings with their tedious centuries.

“It’s very exciting — it’s a lovely challenge facing good bowlers on difficult tracks. Scores have been very low in the series, so the games have been almost condensed into three days.

“On wickets like this, you are never quite in. You can scratch around for some runs, but you could get a difficult or a very good ball to get you out.

“On other wickets that are a bit more true, you can set your innings and dig deep. It’s been very difficult at times, but it’s also been exciting and a good challenge.

“After this tour, a lot of us and the younger guys will take a lot of experience out of it.

“That’s one of the beauties of travelling and playing in different conditions,” he said.

Not even the fact that none of his players had been included in the ICC’s test team of the year could ruffle Amla’s mood.

“The number of games played in the (relevant) period is probably the most important criteria. We played five — two were rained out, we won two and one was drawn. That’s not a lot of cricket compared to the other teams.”

Beautifully done by a real winner, whatever the scoreboard says. Losers, are you listening?

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