KOLKATA: With India set to face Sri Lanka in the first Test beginning Thursday, the Eden Gardens pitch has become one of the talking points. A green top is expected to greet the sides as they kick off the three-Test series.
Ever since the pitch was relaid in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in 2016, seamers have enjoyed more purchase from the track and it has become a fast bowler’s ground. It’s very different from the slow turners where taking wickets towards the end of the match would become difficult.
Stats back this up. Last year, aided by seam movement and uneven bounce, the speedsters from the two sides accounted for 26 of the 40 wickets during the India-New Zealand Test. Bhuvneshwar Kumar picked up a five-for in the first innings.
Even in domestic matches, seamers have enjoyed the lion’s share of success. The top three performances in this season’s Ranji Trophy at this ground have come from pacers — Rishi Dhawan, Mohammed Shami and Ashok Dinda.
While the pitch currently looks indistinguishable from the lush outfield, the grass cover will be trimmed before the start.
“The pitch will have grass and it will help the seamers. It won’t be different from how it has been during recent times. In addition, we are trying to prepare a hard track that will offer some carry,” a member of the ground staff told Express.
He added that spinners might also enjoy the bounce, ruling out the possibility of turn early on. Not just in Test matches. The changed nature of the pitch was seen in ODIs and T20s as well. The India-Australia ODI in September saw India defend 252 with Bhuvneshwar producing a magical spell of 3/9.
One of the IPL games from this year’s edition saw the famed batting of Royal Challengers Bangalore fold up for 49 — the lowest score of the event till date — inside 10 overs, against Kolkata Knight Riders’ speedster triumvirate of Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Woakes and Colin de Grandhomme.
Due to the location of the ground and its proximity to the Hooghly river, the moisture level is high, which affects the firmness of the pitch. Efforts are on to fix this problem.
“We require three weeks of proper sunshine for firming up the track. We had enough time to prepare. The pitch should remain true for the entire duration of the game and the bounce should not be a problem,” the ground staff added.
Incidentally, the India-New Zealand Test was witness to quite a bit of uneven bounce. With the South Africa series in mind, the Eden track might be ideal preparation for the hosts as the team management wanted a challenging track to bat on.
The pace battery of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar will give India the advantage. It will be up to the batsmen to apply themselves out in the middle.