All eyes will be on the pitch, power and Ricky Ponting at Eden Gardens on Tuesday when the Kolkata team takes on a struggling Mumbai to get their campaign back on track after the defeat against Chennai.
The Australia skipper has scored 20 in three innings including successive first-ball ducks and leaves for home after Tuesday’s match to join a conditioning camp ahead of a series in the West Indies. He will be paid for four matches, like Brendon McCullum who also leaves after Tuesday’s game to honour New Zealand’s commitments in England.
When Ponting was bought for $400,000 at the auction in Mumbai in February, many thought he was a good and cheap buy considering the bigger amounts many of the lesser names like Yusuf Pathan or Manoj Tiwary got.
But he seems to have packed in his kit bag the indifferent form that saw him return moderate tallies in the Test series against India and the tri-series defeat against Mahendra Singh’s Dhoni’s team after that.
"It’s unfortunate that he is not managing the big innings despite batting so well at the nets," said Kolkata coach John Buchanan on Monday. "Going by what I can make out by watching him, he is in good touch and rhythm. Just one big knock will do the trick, just like Sourav Ganguly."
Despite not scoring big, Ponting has been a big influence on local players, who have been surprised by his seriousness even during fielding practice and his ability to work hard in these energy-sapping conditions. A good outing with the bat is what he needs now to make his first experience of cricket’s money machine fruitful. Like Ponting, it will be an acid test for pitch curator Kalyan Mitra, who rolled out a shockingly dry and crumbling strip for the match held on April 20. The surface has been watered and some grass has been left on it for the soil to bind. The BCCI pitches committee chief Daljit Singh is here and is expected to stay for a while.
Gul in squad
The Kolkata outfit has included Umar Gul in the squad in place of left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdullah. The squad already has four other foreigners in Ponting, McCullum, David Hussey and Mohammed Hafeez and the best option to accommodate the fast bowler on paper at least seems at Hafeez’s expense. Problem with that is that it might expose the tail a little too early.