India team director Ravi Shastri may have vented his ire at the Wankhede Stadium curator for not obliging the hosts with a turning track for the fifth one-dayer. But the demoralised Indian side have some good news ahead of the four-match Test series. With the South Africa pace bowlers looming as the biggest threat, the hosts are pinning all their hopes on turning tracks to overcome the visitors.
South Africa pacers, particularly young Kagiso Rabada, were a handful even on spin-friendly pitches during the ODIs, but India are likely to get a turning track at Mohali, the venue for the first Test starting on November 5.
While the T20 and ODI series defeats have put India under huge pressure, South Africa have an excellent record in Nagpur and Bengaluru, where the second and third Tests will be played. This has forced the BCCI to turn to its traditional weapon, preparing spinner-friendly pitches.
“All the four cities where Test matches will be played have different conditions. Nagpur had red soil earlier but now it has a different surface. Delhi (final Test venue) and Bengaluru both have different climate and soil. But we are working on result-oriented wickets with the element of home advantage.” Daljit Singh, chairman of the BCCI Ground and Pitches Committee, told HT on Monday.
Though South Africa will be playing a Test in Mohali and Delhi for the first time, they had registered huge victories in Bengaluru and Nagpur the last time they played at these venues.
South Africa played at Nagpur in 2010 and India lost that Test by an inning and six runs. Dale Sten captured 10 wickets, including seven in the first innings. Bengaluru had hosted South Africa in 2000 when they inflicted India’s first home Test series defeat for 14 years with a 2-0 rout. A fiery Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock shared seven wickets in India’s first innings, which folded for 158. South Africa won by an innings and 71 runs.
Chief selector Sandeep Patil had given a hint that everything would be directed towards making things favourable for the India spinners. Explaining the recall of all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, essentially for his left-arm spin, he said: “We do consider domestic performances, at the same time we also see whether that particular player will fit in the slot, whether that particular player will be useful to the team and the kind of wickets (on which) we’re supposed to be playing in the forthcoming Test series. Looking at all these angles, we picked Jadeja,” Patil said.
Even a venue like Mohali, where usually both spinners and pacers are in the game, will prove a challenge for the new ball bowlers.
“India won four out of the last five Tests here in Mohali. Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra were the highest wicket-takers. Ishant Sharma also bowled well in last Test against Australia. Before that Zaheer Khan also got wickets against Australia in 2010. True, pacers bowled well here, but mainly it was spinners who won matches for India,” explained Daljit Singh, a former wicketkeeper.