Virat Kohli and Hashim Amla were both forced to defend the first Test wicket in Mohali after India defeated South Africa in less than three days.
The hosts took a 1-0 series lead following the 108-run victory last Saturday (7), but all the post-match talk was about the poor state of the spin-friendly surface.
Players and pundits slammed the fast-deteriorating pitch, with South African batsman Dean Elgar calling it “a bad wicket for Test cricket”.
The spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra took 19 of the tourist’s 20 wickets, while Imran Tahir, Simon Harmer and Elgar himself were India’s main tormentors, totalling 14 dismissals between them.
But home skipper Kohli remained defiant over the early end to the match, saying the five-day game needed more “result-orientated wickets”.
“If you want to play and compete in Tests, the wickets should be result-oriented,” he said.
“I agree that we do have a certain nature of Indian wickets. I don’t see any logic in making a pitch that doesn’t give you a result. If you keep asking how to keep Test cricket alive, then you need to have these wickets.
“When we played in Sri Lanka, the first and the second wickets took turn and the third helped the seamers. But all three were result-oriented. We don’t have a problem with that. If a fast track can be prepared somewhere, fine.
“It will be our decision on what kind of wicket we want – whether our pacers want to bowl on that kind of pitch. Like Ashwin pointed out, he never saw any hype when we went on overseas tours. And it should not happen here as well.”
Batting first, Elgar, far from an established slow bowler, collected figures of 4-22 as India were bowled out for 201. Tahir had 2-23. Ashwin (5-51), Jadeja (3-55) and Mishra (2-35) then took all 10 first innings wickets as the tourists could only muster 184 in reply.
Tahir (4-48) and Simon Harmer (4-61) continued the theme, combining for eight more wickets in India’s second innings total of 200.
Finally, chasing 218 for victory, South Africa fell well short as Jadeja (5-21) and Ashwin (3-39) wrecked more havoc, bowling their opponents out for just 109.
Only Murali Vijay (75 and 47), Cheteshwar Pujara (77) and AB de Villiers (63) put up any resistance, scoring half-centuries with the bat on both sides.
When quizzed if matches not lasting the full five days was good for Test cricket, Kohli added: “If we lose (in three days) in England, no one asks us if the track was good or not. It’s always we played badly.
“Here, most batsmen didn’t apply themselves. We made errors rather than fear of spin. Some did get runs, it wasn’t like teams are getting out for 50. So there is no need to unnecessarily hype up the wicket.
“I don’t think there were any demons in the wicket; the ball did not turn square at any stage. Batsmen had to apply themselves but it was a bowlers’ game.”
South African captain Amla agreed with Kohli’s verdict, and felt his side’s lack of application was the main reason behind their batting failure.
“The chat that we had in our meetings was that the ball wasn’t turning that much actually. I think a lot of dismissals for both teams were due to lack of turn more than anything excessive.
“Sometimes those are the more difficult pitches to play on. A few errors in decision-making kind of cost us a bit. We actually kept it as simple as possible.
“For a majority of the Test match, it was about trying to play the ball as straight as possible, and if you manage to get a good one, so be it. We could have applied ourselves a bit better,” he said.
“Credit to India, they bowled well. I think 200 on that wicket was a challenging target. Going into the next Test, whatever we are dealt with, we have prepared enough.”
The win was Kohli’s first on home soil as captain, and was a welcome result following defeats to South Africa in the Twenty20 and one-day series.
The second Test starts in Bangalore on Saturday (14).