What’s a red-soil and black-soil pitch and how will Indore pitch behave for third Test between India and Australia?

The changing demographics in India mean pitches tend to vary from each place. If red soil pitches are mostly dominant in the south, black soil is the preferred one in the north. While bounce can be a factor in the west, in eastern parts the low surfaces can challenge batsmen. Here we explain the different types of pitches.

Red soil

A staple at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, M Chinnaswamy, and at the Wankhede. Once the wear and tear starts happening and if the Test lasts all five days it will end up more like a Roland Garros surface with plenty of rough patches around the fuller-length area. The red soil pitches usually have a lot of bounce and spinners like bowling in it as they are always in the game. That said, if not watered enough, the red soil pitches are the ones which tend to crumble fast, making survival all the more challenging for batsmen.

Black soil

Feroz Shah Kotla, Mohali, and Eden Gardens have black soil pitches, where the bounce is low. Thanks to the clay, when watered, it tends to hold the surface together for long and batsmen usually tend to make merry in such conditions. To even the contest out, curators often leave a bit of live grass or stop watering it a couple of days before a Test so that spinners get some turn out of it. These pitches can even give way to invariable bounce. Batting often tends to become easy in the second session on such pitches and when the ball gets old. Also black soil pitches can act differently at different parts. For example in Bangladesh, the black soil pitches are slower than the one in India because of the low water content.

Indore: Australian cricketer Steve Smith inspects the pitch during a practice session ahead of the 3rd test cricket match between India and Australia, at Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023. (PTI)

What is in store in Indore?

Here is where it gets interesting. Curators tend to be imaginative and often treat the square akin to how a farmer treats his agricultural field. Only they know what sort of ingredients are mixed and what it will offer during the course of the Test. It is a secret recipe even hosting teams can find hard to crack and on Monday there were mixed feelings as to what sort of pitch was on offer. Some citing the red patches on the pitch said it is a red soil pitch. Others who had the fortune of looking at the pitch said it is black. And what is in store is a mixture of red and black soil.

What does that mean? Is it routine?

It is routine. It is not any doctoring or tailor-made one prepared to suit India. The groundstaff have preferred a mixture of both because with summer setting in, they believe the black soil will hold the pitch together for a longer period. There were reports that suggested that the pitch was watered on Monday, which means it won’t crumble as quickly as red-soil pitch.

“Look, it doesn’t matter if it is red soil, black soil or violet soil. What makes a pitch is the mixture of all these ingredients. If we feel that the red soil, with exposure to sun, can break quickly and needs something to keep it intact, then black soil will be able to provide it.

“And in such cases, there will be bounce as long as the top layer (in Indore the top layer is red soil) is intact and once that is gone, the wear and tear will start,” a curator familiar with the development told The Indian Express.

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