Before groundsmen’s visages grew grimmer, car-key test was ever so common a phrase in cricket, especially in the county circuit, where the team’s trusted pitch-reader stuck their car keys into the surface so as to assess the hardness of it. Some others brandished a Barrington Knife and hence a derivative of the expression Barrington Knife.
Such phraseologies are no longer in vogue, and neither are they gestured such amnesties. But given the go-ahead at least a few wise Englishmen wouldn’t have resisted thrusting their room key or a Swiss Army Knife into the Motera surface, for the re-laid strip is an unknown an entity, and the ground-staff are strictly instructed to not divulge a word on how it would unfold as the Test progresses. Such is their secrecy that it gives the impression that a treasure is hidden beneath.
It’s not just that the strip has been recently re-laid—so as to make it spinner friendly—that makes it a touch mysterious, but it’s more beige than brown, though the outfield is as green as it could get here. It’s different in composition from the earlier pitches, too.
The clay content has been reduced from 80 to 55 per cent. Instead of pond clay, they have used farm-land clay, which they have mixed with sand. The delayed monsoon ensured they got enough time to work on the wicket as well (they had more than 150 hours to roll the strip).
The rolling, according to curator Dhiraj Parsana, would ensure carry and bounce throughout the match. Also, the pitch will crack as the Test progresses, as opposed to slow fragmenting that made the traditional Motera surface indifferent to both spinners and fast bowlers.
Also interesting would be how much and how early would the ball swing reverse (the dryness would guarantee negligible conventional swing). If the surface tears faster, reverse swing could come into play much earlier in the game unlike the 40-50 over mark when the ball starts to reverse in the sub-continent.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni reckons the pitch would assist spinners as the match progresses. “It looks a good wicket. It’s dry and would get slow as the match progresses. It would assist spinners and maybe a little bit of reverse swing too,” he said.
His counterpart Alastair Cook, too, deemed the pitch dry. “Tuesday it looked drier, but it can change in 24 hours. Whatever is thrown at us, we have to counter it,” he said.