The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has made its best effort to provide home advantage to India in their quarterfinal match against Australia on Thursday. However, the BCCI bigwigs have been a bit late in sending out instructions to the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) to make the turf as per the home team's strengths.
The BCCI waited till the last league match to find out India's opponents before taking the decision to make a turner. Hindustan Times has learnt that by the time the instructions were conveyed, the local GCA curator had already rolled out a hard wicket which would have been more sporting, giving equal assistance to both pace and spin.
In the last couple of days, there has been a desperate effort to change the nature of the track to suit the home team and negate Australia's pace arsenal but it has not been very successful. Despite trying, the local groundsmen feel they may not be able to squeeze the juice completely out of the wicket.
The Australians wouldn't mind that. The judgment of a local wicket expert is that the square will have life for the first 10-12 overs. It means that Australia's best chance to take control of the game will be to bowl first and hope their pace battery exploits the early life.
Hence, the battle within the war, which could have a big influence in Thursday's game, could be the one between paceman Brett Lee and India's opening combination of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
"We have tried to make it slow and dry but there will be bounce in the initial overs where the pacers will have good carry," a GCA source said.
The 34-year-old Lee has been a revelation in the World Cup and is Australia's 'X' factor in the game. His battles with Tendulkar are legendary. Lee is at the top of the list of the most successful bowlers against the Mumbai batsman in one-day cricket, having claimed his wicket nine times.
At this World Cup, a rejuvenated Lee has packed quite a punch, taking a dozen wickets at a mind-boggling average of 16.66.
Even during Australia's defeat against Pakistan in the last game, he, almost single-handedly, turned the tables with his relentless pace and precision and finished with figures of 4-28
Ponting relies on Lee
Skipper Ricky Ponting is clear that his team's chances will depend a lot on the performance of Lee & Co.
"I'd expect that probably tomorrow we are going to face at least 30 overs of spin and they (India) can probably be assured that they will be facing at least 30 overs of fast bowling. Contrasting ways to look at it but both are strengths of each team.
"If we can have our fast bowlers bowling well at their batsmen, then we have a good chance," said Ponting.