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Will they 'turn' it on?

As much as India's last Test at home - versus the West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai in November - is remembered for a thrilling draw, it is also remembered for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni demanding, in no uncertain terms, that the team be handed the home advantage. Amol Karhadkar reports. Spin troika

cricket Updated: Aug 16, 2012 00:34 IST
Amol Karhadkar

As much as India's last Test at home - versus the West Indies at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai in November - is remembered for a thrilling draw, it is also remembered for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni demanding, in no uncertain terms, that the team be handed the home advantage.

In the post-match media interaction, when he was asked what should be the nature of Indian pitches, he ended his long answer with, "I am hoping we stick to our kind of wickets and (they) turn from the first day, which doesn't make the toss very important."

Strong demand
Well, the Jharkhand cricketer during his over four years as India Test captain has more than once demanded that the curators must hand his team the home advantage. But never before that November day had he pressed his demand so hard.

Dhoni was also backed by Gautam Gambhir, who said that just as countries like Australia, South Africa and England prepare bouncy wickets to suit their pacers, India must prepare spin-friendly tracks to suit their strength. And as the long home season, comprising 10 Tests, 13 ODIs and three T20Is over the next six months, begins with a Test in Hyderabad against New Zealand, it would be interesting to see what kind of pitch curator YL Chandrashekhar prepares.

Especially, after the flak the curator received for what he offered for the first Test hosted at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium two years ago. Getting his maiden Test ton in the match didn't stop off-spinner Harbhajan Singh from slamming the pitch. "Most of the wickets in the country have been re-laid and the black soil has made them pretty firm. It just doesn't turn and the wicket plays well even on the final day. The curator deserves to be given the contract to build national highways," he had said. Strong words, but even if the HCA curator does offer a spin-friendly pitch, it remains to be seen if the current Indian spinners are equipped to exploit it to their advantage.

Impressive start
R Ashwin, the leader of the spin attack for the two-Test series against the Kiwis, had a dream outing in his debut series against the West Indies last year. But the fact can't be overlooked that being his first Test series, Ashwin may have come across as an unknown quantity in that format. It will be interesting to see if the bowler can avoid second season blues.

As for Pragyan Ojha and Piyush Chawla, neither has featured in India colours for a while now. Though the left-arm spinner and the leggie have shown promise, they are far from establishing themselves in Tests. India are still smarting from the humiliating experiences in England and Australia, where pace-friendly tracks were laid at all the venues to exploit our batsmen's weaknesses. There was lot of talk by Indian board officials of the importance of playing on sporting tracks, to be better prepared for overseas challenges. The BCCI's reaction will be interesting to note: whether it chooses to allow its players to seek revenge by playing to the spin advantage at home, or look at the long-term future.

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