The last time India played a Test at the Sardar Patel stadium in Motera, South Africa speedster Dale Steyn ripped apart the famed batting line-up on a green top on the very first day. The match was over in three days with the hosts suffering an innings-and-90-run defeat.
The loss, and more importantly the nature of the wicket for that Test, has been the talking point among the regulars at the ground in the run up to the first Test against Sri Lanka.
The two teams begin their campaign to bag the three-Test series here on Monday and the Indians will be eager to put the loss to Australia in the one-day series behind them and turn on the heat against the islanders, who are chasing their maiden Test win on Indian soil.
And Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men will surely not come across another green top. Though the pitch had some grass cover on Saturday it has a very slight green tinge and curator Dhiraj Parsana said that even that will be trimmed on the eve of the match.
When the two teams met here last time in December 2005, India thrashed the Lankans by 259 runs with Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh sharing the spoils in both innings.
“Last year’s South Africa match was in April and I had to leave some grass for the wicket to hold for five days. That is not the case this time and you can see the wicket is lot browner than last time,” said the BCCI’s Pitch and Ground Committee west zone representative.
Parsana, however, insisted that it was still a result-oriented wicket and would assist the pace bowlers in the first session if skies are overcast. “It will definitely have something for the pace bowlers initially. We will have to see how the bowlers exploit the conditions.”
The Indian players, who trooped into Ahmedabad on Saturday morning, also inspected the pitch just before their net session but did not bother to give it a second look before getting on with their training.
The top five batsmen had a long knock in the nets thereafter with Sachin Tendulkar concentrating on the forward defence with coach Gary Kirsten doing the throw downs.
Fit-again Zaheer Khan looked in a good rhythm, though he hardly bowled at optimum pace during training.
The left arm pacer, who had suffered a shoulder injury during the Indian Premier League in April, had bowled 24 of the 81 overs Mumbai bowled against Orissa on Friday and claimed three wickets.