In 2008, curator Shiv Kumar allegedly took the blame when the International Cricket Council (ICC) not only accused the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) of laying an underprepared wicket, but also threatened to impose a blanket ban on the Green Park after South Africa’s loss in the third Test within three days.
From the first delivery, the pitch was a mystery for Graeme Smith’s men when they chose to bat.
Smith and Hashim Amla struck half-centuries in difficult conditions, but the others found Ishant Sharma (3 wickets), Harbhajan Singh (3 wkts) and Piyush Chawla (2 wkts) tough to handle.
Sensing the behaviour of the pitch, skipper Sourav Ganguly chose to start with Harbhajan (4 wkts) in the second innings and got the result when South Africa collapsed for 121 in 55.5 overs. India achieved the target in 13.1 overs to script an eight-wicket win. Part-timer Virendra Sehwag too had three wickets in the innings.
The ‘pitch fiasco’ sent alarm bells ringing and the UPCA re-laid the turf with emphasis on bounce and speed. “Certainly, it was a bad dream. The happening taught me many things and since then I have decided not to risk the match again,” Shiv Kumar told HT on Tuesday.
He, however, refused to name those responsible for the 2008 pitch fiasco, but claimed amid the talk of a spinning track for the first Test, the Green Park pitch this time would have equal opportunities for both the sides at least for the first two days of the historical 500th Test.
“Home advantage is what one likes to avail in a Test. India have quality spinners, but it doesn’t mean I should create a pitch where the ball starts turning from Day One,” said Shiv Kumar.
“We have strict guidelines from the ICC and BCCI on pitch planning and I am not going to risk the future of this ground with a rank turner.”
India coach Anil Kumble too accepted that home advantage made a difference. While he would love to see India start the season on a winning note, he hasn’t advised the curator about the pitch. “We have quality spinners and we wish to win here as it’s a historical Test match for us. I know the Green Park wicket’s nature, it’s slow and low bouncy.”
Though Kumble refused to comment on Harbhajan’s call against using rank turners in the series, he defended the use of three spinners. “That’s our strength and we would like to make use of it for winning. There is nothing wrong if we plan our strategy according to the situation.
“The Kiwis too have quality spinners and others bowlers too. We shouldn’t take them lightly and a win here will boost our confidence. We had a good time in West Indies in the last series, and we would like to continue our winning streak here too. The surface doesn’t make a difference to us,” he said.