CHENNAI:What became a major talking point during the first Test, and dominated discussions in the lead-up to the second, lost steam after rain prevented cricket in Bengaluru. With the third Test starting on November 25, surface talk might again start causing tension as the teams head for Nagpur.
South Africans are landing in the geographical centre of India on Saturday. Indians are expected a day later and news emerging from the hometown of BCCI president Shashank Manohar suggests the centre of the ground at VCA Stadium has more good news for the hosts than visitors, who face the task of levelling the four-match series.
Not surprising. But considering precedents of Nagpur pitches not favouring the home team, it’s noteworthy perhaps. Before the new stadium started hosting Tests in 2008, a green top at the old one made Australians feel at home in 2004. And desperate to square the series with four spinners against England in 2012, what India got was one of the most frighteningly slow strips seen in home Tests in a long time.
Looking back at those, assurance of a ‘result-oriented wicket with help for the hosts’ should please M/s Ashwin, Jadeja & Co. Sources in the BCCI pitches and grounds committee said work is in progress to make the pitch conducive for spin. As the Test comes closer, efforts will begin to make it dry, which is often considered vital for spinners to get grip and turn.
“The pitch will have undergone about 15 days of work when the Test starts. It’ll be a result-oriented wicket with help for the home team. Can’t say whether the turn will be as exaggerated as in Mohali (where the first Test got over inside three days), but spinners will have something to look forward to. It’s being watered now, but the watering will lessen as the match comes closer,” a source in the BCCI pitches and grounds committee told Express.
Talking on condition of anonymity, he added that this doesn’t necessarily follow instructions from the team management. “It’s possible the team too wants a turning track. But it had been decided before the season started that pitches for this Test series should assist spin. The plan for limited-over matches was to produce batting beauties. But for Tests, home advantage is the unofficial instruction and that naturally means something for spinners.”
Barring the England match in 2012, the VCA Stadium assisted different types of bowlers in three other Tests it has hosted. If Australian off-spinner Jason Krezja got 12 wickets in 2008 in a match India won, Dale Steyn jolted India with a match haul of 10 two years later. Later in 2010, spinners and pacers shared spoils when the hosts beat New Zealand. That way, it can’t be branded a spinner’s paradise.
However, recent record corroborates what the pitches and ground committee member says. Four of the three Ranji Trophy matches featuring Vidarbha this season produced results with spinners grabbing a lion’s share. Of the 76 wickets taken by the home team in these games, spinners accounted for as many as 58. That’s 76.3 per cent and an indication of what to expect.
If the weather stays good, Indians are expected to like what they come across when they hit the ground for practice on November 23. Two spinners or three should be the question instead of Stuart Binny or Umesh Yadav, the only Vidarbha player in the squad, who might not enjoy what he sees.