iconimg Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Khurram Habib, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 04, 2011
It has been almost two years since a substandard pitch in December 2009 led to the ban on Ferozshah Kotla as an international venue. Yet, the Delhi cricket authorities haven't been able to find the 'right mix'. With Kotla set to host its first Test after the ban was revoked, all eyes are on whether the track will last full five days. It had hosted one-dayers, during the World Cup and the recent ODI against England.

For the DDCA it is the soil this time. It had been struggling till late with the excess level of salt and lime, both of which impede the growth of grass and deter the binding of the track. Both these can lead to a crumbling and substandard wicket, according to experts.

"We have been watering the track a lot to wash the salt away," Chetan Chauhan, chairman of the pitch committee, told HT.

The problem began when DDCA, while assessing the wicket for the new season, summoned Raj Kumar Sharma from Himachal Pradesh as their first choice curator from Rajkot wasn't made available by the Saurashtra Cricket Association.

"He recommended changes, including that of soil," said Anil Jain, a member of the pitch committee. "I found the content of cow dung high in the soil they were using, so I asked them to get it from Hissar, which had a larger clay content. The cow dung would have deterred the binding of the track," Raj Kumar Sharma told HT. 

As many as 18 truckloads were ordered from Hissar. But Chauhan was away in Australia then. When he returned, he consulted Om Prakash Yadav, another curator and supplier of soil. Yadav rejected the Hissar soil.

A fresh consignment was ordered from Nuh-Firozpur area of Haryana to be put on the wicket. The Hissar soil, which is believed to have cost between R 2-3 lakh, is now lying dumped within the Kotla premises.

"The new soil has a larger clay content, close to 70%," said Chauhan.

However, the test reports threw up another problem. The content of salt and lime was too high. And now the DDCA has been desperately trying to 'wash it clean'.