As MS Dhoni and Kane Williamson arrive for their practice sessions at the ACA-VDCA Stadium ahead of the fifth and series-deciding ODI, uppermost on their minds will be how the pitch behaves.
The Kiwis have proved once again that they are adept at reading the conditions after opting for three spinners on the slow Ranchi wicket in the fourth ODI. Their astute understanding of surfaces in India played a major role in helping them progress to the World T20 semifinal.
The pitch in Vizag has been under the scanner since Assam coach Sunil Joshi’s tweet during their Ranji Trophy match against Rajasthan, which ended in three days. Assam were bowled out for 69 in their second innings to lose by an innings and eight runs.
There were reports that the final ODI might be shifted out, but the BCCI sent senior curator K Sriram to assist the local expert K Nagamalliah in preparing the wicket. The venue will also make its Test debut in the England series.
While one pitch has been completely relaid, there’s been some patch work done on others, informed Nagamalliah. Going by the last two Ranji matches played at the venue, the wicket has assisted pacers more.
Nagamalliah though predicted a batting paradise on Saturday. “The surface is hard. We have got adequate time to prepare the wicket, and I’m expecting at least 280-300 on the board,” he said on Thursday.
The curator blamed incessant rain for hampering preparations at the start of the Ranji season. “For 21 days we had non-stop rain. We hardly got any scope to prepare the wicket for the first match of the season. We haven’t used the relaid wicket at all because of the weather,” said Nagamalliah, who used to be a long-distance runner for Andhra Pradesh.
Dew might play a role if there are no clouds. However, till Thursday, dark clouds had the Andhra Cricket Association officials on their toes. The ODI will be played on the centre wicket, but it won’t be a prelude to the way a Test-match wicket is prepared. “The Test-match wicket will be a fresh one. The conditions won’t be the same as a 50-over match,” said Nagamalliah.