India vs Sri Lanka, 3rd Test: Delhi closer to Eden Gardens than Nagpur
By Vishal Menon
Written by Vishal Menon
| New Delhi |
Published: November 30, 2017 12:57 am The centre square at the Ferozshah Kotla on Wednesday. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)
Grassier than Nagpur, but not as deadly as Eden Gardens — that’s the first impression of the Delhi pitch laid out for India’s third Test against Sri Lanka.
The nature of the pitch has fueled intense debate in this series, as it has been during several other bilateral home series in the past. But this time, there was a twist. No one was accusing India of creating rank-turners; instead the talk was about how India were striving to produce seamer-friendly tracks to use the Sri Lanka series as preparation for the tour of South Africa.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Ferozshah Kotla got a facelift ahead of the first DDCA conclave — an event to honour Delhi’s distinguished cricketers. The arena was abuzz with activity in preparation for the event — a stand has been named after Bishan Singh Bedi and another after Mohinder Amarnath — but the atmosphere at the centre-square was far more staid.
The 22-yard strip was kept under wraps, with just the burly mechanized heavy-roller perched on the side for company.
Even as the organiseres sweated over the felicitation function, a few curious eyes were glued at the pitch. The answer came around 3.30 pm, when Daljit Singh, BCCI’s chief curator, directed the groundsmen to remove the covers for the customary pitch inspection — the perceptible tinge of green dissipated much of the intrigue.
“It has ample grass cover, it’s December, and there will be something in it for the fast bowlers,” Daljit said. “Ankit (the DDCA curator) has done a commendable job in preparing this track.”
With the Test match still two days away, it’s not unusual to see ample grass cover, which in all likelihood will be chopped off a wee bit before the match gets underway. But the cool winter chill along with Kotla’s predominant black soil, which is known to retain moisture for longer period of time, will only aid fast bowlers more.
Having said that, this track will not be in anyway as lively as the track that was dished out during the first Test at the Eden Gardens, which Virat Kohli had termed as one of the liveliest pitches he had played on. Consequently, India’s fast bowling trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav ripped through the Sri Lankan batting-order with their nip and precision.
“We would like to think that we want to prepare for South Africa. That’s why we had asked for pitches with help for the fast bowlers. This one (in Nagpur) deteriorated. Kolkata was the ideal sort of wicket. There’s not enough time for us to prepare so we have to use this time for the big tour coming up,” Kohli had said after the Kolkata Test.
As the bandwagon rolled onto Nagpur, the narrative changed. With their fast bowlers getting tested, the team now wanted their two front-line spinners – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – to get into the groove. The Jamtha track was nowhere as lively as it was at the Eden. It aided stroke-play, but most importantly, Ashwin got ample bite from the surface, prising out eight Lankan wickets.
With Bhuvneshwar not available for the Delhi Test and Shami nurturing a hamstring niggle, the team-management will look to test a reserve player like Vijay Shankar, and give local lad Ishant Sharma another go at the hapless visitors. Sharma, who bowled with considerable hostility on an unresponsive Nagpur track, would find his home turf more to his liking.
Daljit, however, does not see anything wrong in tinkering tracks to suit the home team’s interests. “What’s wrong in that? That’s what you call home advantage right? All teams do it, why single out India?” he asked.
Kotla hosted a Test match exactly two years back against South Africa. Even back then, the bulk of the narrative centered around the pitch. Square turners were dished out to counter Proteas’ inability to counter the Indian spinners. India won the four-match Test series 3-0, with matches at Mohali and Nagpur ending inside three days. “Only the final Test match here at the Kotla went into the fifth day. This was easily the best track of that series. Rahane got hundreds in both innings, Ashwin got wickets, while someone like Umesh managed to get reverse swing. At one point, I thought that the match was heading into a draw seeing the manner in which South Africa batted in their second innings,” Daljit concurred.
If this Kotla track indeed proves to be a mirror image of 2015, it will round off Team India’s preparations before they board that flight to Cape Town.
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