Royal Challengers Bangalore's Mohammad Siraj
Royal Challengers Bangalore's Mohammad Siraj, right, celebrates the dismissal of Chennai Super Kings' Ambati Rayadu, during the IPL T20 cricket match at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, on Saturday, March 23, 2019. Image Credit: AP

New Delhi: Pitches in the Indian Premier League (IPL) have by and large been pretty good over the years even if some matches got affected by dew, the anticipation of which made captains field on winning the toss at a couple of venues.

There have been matches that were decided by the toss itself as the teams knew the conditions. One doesn’t hear about unacceptable pitches in the IPL.

So, the pitch at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium at Chennai’s Chepauk for the inaugural game of the tournament on Saturday seemed to have puzzled both the players as well as the authorities.

It was certainly not a 70-run pitch the Royal Challengers Bangalore mustered for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to hit them off for the loss of three wickets.

In sports, losers see positives and Bengaluru skipper Virat Kohli was happy that they were through with the CSK match straightaway and also for taking the game into the 18th over of a Twenty20 match.

The slow-paced track had enough spin to leave the batsmen guessing, but as Man-of-the-Match Harbhajan Singh said, the wicket was difficult to bat but not unplayable.

Accomplished batsmen Kohli, AB de Villiers and Moeen Ali tried to go after the off-spinner, but ended up looking ungainly while getting dismissed.

Harbhajan cheekily spoke like a bowler, saying people are so used to watching matches on good wickets where no one complains when people score 170-180, but if it spins or seams a little, everyone has a problem.

Harbhajan’s captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not in agreement. He was quite frank in admitting that it was not a wicket his team would like to play on, the pitch has to be a lot better if his CSK are to be consistently good at home.

Dhoni put it in perspective: “I feel if the wicket stays like this, it will be tough for us also, even with dew it was still spinning big.” That’s not a good advertisement for a Twenty20 game.

The players, particularly those who still think they can force the selectors to make changes in the World Cup squad, will be worried more about the pitches like the one in Chennai. They would like to have a level-playing field. But then the players will have to be ready for all eventualities if they think they are good enough to play in England this summer.

No two pitches are alike, but in the short-format game, people want to see big shots and high scoring. Just as 300-plus has become the new norm in the 50-over game, chasing 200-plus in Twenty20 would be as exciting. For high-scoring matches, the pitches have to be true and firm with the elements throwing in a bit of uncertainty.