India changes tack, pushes for better track at Kotla

  • Siddhartha Sharma, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Nov 29, 2015 16:23 IST
India's Ravichandran Ashwin (L) celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of South Africa's Dane Vilas during the third day of their third test cricket match in Nagpur on November 27, 2015. (ReutersPhoto)

With great opportunity comes great responsibility goes the saying, and the Delhi cricket association (DDCA) is feeling that way. Until last week, the DDCA was embroiled in a struggle to retain the fourth and final Test between India and South Africa starting on Thursday.

It took the Delhi high court’s intervention to retain the match at Ferozeshah Kotla, and the onus will be on the DDCA to see that the Test lasts for five days. After heavy criticism of the rank turners in Mohali and Nagpur that saw Tests end in three days, the DDCA will have the responsibility to manufacture a far better pitch.

Broadcaster Star India is fuming because the previous three Tests accounted for the loss of about 75 hours of broadcast - four days were washed out in Bengaluru - and it faces a revenue loss of about `80 crore. While that could be one aspect, another compulsion for the DDCA to prepare a better track could be the dwindling returns for the India batsmen. With India having won the series, Delhi can help stem the rot.

Batsmen flounder

Other than Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara, the India batting is in a shambles. Though skipper Virat Kohli argued after the match that the fault lay in the batsmen’s lack of application against spin, the puffs of dust that the dry, under-prepared tracks threw up from Day 1 told a different story.

A source in the DDCA’s pitch committee, who did not want to be identified, felt the pitch is likely to be better. “While we are still awaiting instructions, it will more or less be a good wicket which will see the batsmen getting runs and the spinners coming into play as the game goes on,” the official said. “The BCCI also sends us instructions, but not in every match,” he added.

The Delhi winter is also likely to influence the behaviour of the pitch. “The Mohali Test was exactly a month ago. Since then the temperature has dropped. There was slight fog this morning and that is why the covers were lifted only around 10am. The moisture will play a big role here. Even if the pitch remains dry, moisture content and the covers will help bind the soil.”

Clear weather is forecast on the Test days (Dec 3-7), but fog can’t be entirely ruled out. Even if fog is not an obstacle, poor light could be. Delhi’s home Ranji games too were affected by poor light, and play had to be extended beyond scheduled close almost daily to complete the overs. The conditions have worsened since then. As far the Test wicket is concerned, three of the four Ranji matches went into the fourth and final day with only one tie ending in two days. And pacers (from all teams) picked around 70 wickets in four games.

That holds promise for the India and South Africa pacers, especially in the morning. But once the sun comes out post lunch, spinners are likely to take over. Batsmen too have done well on this track this Ranji season. Bengal’s Sudip Chatterjee and Delhi’s Dhruv Shorey hit a century each with many scoring half-centuries.

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