AT 73, Radhey Shyam might just be the oldest man at the Ferozeshah Kotla when the first ball of the third India-Australia Test is bowled. As curator, you can do all the preparation you like, but it is only after a few overs have been sent down on a pitch that you can safely say just what its character is. For days now the speculation has been that this pitch will be a spiteful turner, a perfect strip for Anil Kumble to do his thing.
But even late on Sunday, when Daljit Singh, chairman of the pitches committee, oversaw the removal of excess grass on the surface, no-one seemed convinced about just how it would play. In the last seven matches that India have won here, four times a spinner has been Man of the Match, but it's not because the surface has been a rank turner.
What further confuses things is the dual nature of this pitch. With the Ranji Trophy beginning so late in the year, just as winter is setting in, domestic games are usually played on hard surfaces that have enough green grass on them to assist the seamers for the first couple of days. From then on it's difficult to bowl a team out.
What is much more likely is that bounce plays a major factor. When the Kotla stays low, it brings Kumble into the equation much more than any other spinner. Since he operates on a fairly straight line and has the ability to push batsmen onto the back foot, a lack of bounce is just as useful to him as extra zip. It's not just the bat-pad fielders who come into play, but lbw and bowled as well. Kumble certainly isn't going into this Test with any pre-conceived notions about how the surface will play. If others do so, it will be at their own peril.