Three men just couldn’t keep themselves away from the wicket at the Ferozshah Kotla wicket on Monday. They would sometimes stand in the middle of it, sometimes at different corners, gazing hard at it. Occasionally, they would bend down to give it a tentative tap, sometimes a brush of their hand. Looking satisfied with what they saw, they would walk away, only to return after a while and go through the process again.
In normal circumstances, Andy Atkinson, the International Cricket Council's pitch consultant, Venkat Sundaram, the BCCI's pitch and grounds committee chairman, and Radhey Shyam, the curator of the ground, would have been guilty of exaggeration, but not in this case.
The Ferozshah Kotla will return to international action on Thursday when West Indies face South Africa in the World Cup. It will end a venue ban by the ICC after a dubious wicket forced the India-Sri Lanka match to be called off in December 2009.
As the Delhi and District Cricket Association prepares to host the high-profile game, no one wants to leave anything to chance that could again cause embarrassment at one of India's oldest venues. Officials would be on the edge of their seats until the match is over.
“I am, though, not overly concerned, but I will be able to sleep peacefully only after Thursday,” said DDCA vice-president, Chetan Chauhan. The former Test opener conceded that the year out of international cricket was tough.
“We didn’t lose much on cricket, but the stigma of having been banned was tough to come to terms with. Anyhow, we have worked hard on the wicket and I am sure we will pull it off without any glitches.”
The officials and curators are, however, refraining from predicting how the strip would turn out to be. “Consistent” and “batting track” is all one could extract from them.