Steve O'Keefe stunned India with 12 wickets in the first Test in Pune.
Steve O'Keefe stunned India with 12 wickets in the first Test in Pune. Warren Little

Indian insider claims Pune pitch was "doctored”

CRICKET: Australia's huge win in the first Test against India in Pune sent the home side reeling.

For the first time in 13 years, the Aussies had won a Test on Indian soil.

Steve O'Keefe's 12-wicket haul sent the home side packing, taking 12/70 for the match and overtaking Charlie Turner for the 10th-best match figures by an Australian.

Indian captain Virat Kohli - who recently enjoyed a stellar run of form - drastically underperformed on the dusty wicket, scoring 0 and 13, including an embarrassing leave off the bowling of O'Keefe.

The Pune pitch came under instant fire from cricketing figures when it was unveiled before play on day one.

Shane Warne instantly compared it to a "day eight" track, predicting spin to be responsible for a vast majority of the 20 wickets taken.

Despite everything Warne got wrong about the first Test, he was right about that.

The pitch was obviously a minefield.

India has been known to doctor the pitch to suit their strategies, but this time it backfired spectacularly.

An insider told Indian media the lengths the home side went to have the pitch engineered to favour the home side's three-pronged spin attack.

The insider claimed the ground staff at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium (MCA) were ordered to prepare a "rank turner" by team management.

"When the MCA refused ... the senior member of the team management took the issue to the state association curator Pandurang Salgaoncar," the MCA member told the Indian Express.

"When he too resisted, the matter was placed before the BCCI curators (Parsana and Daljit), but even they were a tad reluctant.

"Then, the BCCI management (not the Committee of Administrators, the cricket board employees) came into the picture.

"The ground staff had been ordered to remove the grass completely. Things were hijacked from the local curators."

India's selection also came under fire. Former captain Mohammad Azharuddin criticised the decision to play an extra spinner and predicted a major shake-up to the team for the next Test, starting in Bangalore on Tuesday.

"Any batting debacle leaves a team on the backfoot. I am not saying the series is lost but one needs to look at the kind of track that you want to play," Azharuddin told Indian media.

"I reckon Chinnaswamy (location of the Second Test) won't have this kind of turn.

"So my gut feeling is that Jayant Yadav and Ishant Sharma may be dropped from the playing XI.

"Going by their batting performance, I expect them to play an extra batsman - that is Karun Nair. He should be replacing Jayant in all likelihood.

"Also on the tracks that we are playing, Ishant's back of the length stuff is not going to work.

"It is better that a swing bowler like Bhuvneshwar is brought into the team by Virat."

O'Keefe's spell sent a shockwave through Australian cricket. Comparing himself to a "Hyundai i30", the 32-year-old accepts his place as Australia's second choice, average spinner.

That all changed over the weekend.

O'Keefe briefly sent Nathan Lyon, Australia's best off-spinner in history, to the back seat as he took career best figures of 12/70, and it had the coach impressed.

"I haven't seen that since Mitchell Johnson in the Ashes with England in Adelaide when he tore them apart," Australia coach Darren Lehmann said.

"Twelve-for, 6/35 in both innings is pretty special."

Lyon, who took 5/74 for the match, has been under pressure to perform of late, but Lehmann assured his frontline spinner's display in Pune was just as outstanding.

"I actually thought Nathan Lyon bowled just as well to be perfectly honest," he said.

"Nathan's been under pressure from a lot of sources throughout the subcontinent, myself included.

"I thought he was outstanding in this game. He was brilliant, so both spinners did the job, but Stephen was exceptional getting the rewards."

News Corp Australia


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