England are in for a surprise. They will face a genuine spinner after all before heading into the first Test starting next Thursday.
The opportunity, denied until now, will finally present itself in the third and final practice game starting Thursday against Haryana. Going against the grain, last year's Ranji Trophy semifinalists have included leg spinner, Amit Mishra, who will captain the side in the four-day match.
"I don't understand why there was a doubt about Mishra's participation in the game? He's the captain of our side and there is no way we would drop him unless he's injured and needs rest," said Haryana Cricket Association secretary, Anirudh Chaudhary.
It was natural to assume that given how spinners were not picked in the last two warm-up games to deny the visiting batsmen practice to iron out what is considered England's weakest link. But Chaudhary said: "There has been no such instrction from the BCCI, to us at least. And I am sure it wasn't the case in the last two games too."
Mishra, who was in the India squad which lost the series in England last summer, was also surprised by the talk that he may skip the match. "I was always sure of playing this game. I am looking forward to it and picking up a few wickets," he said.
Be that as it may, it would be interesting to see how, or rather how much, he bowls. Mishra anyway bowled just two of the 94 overs Vidarbha faced while thrashing Haryana by eight wickets in the Ranji Trophy opener. "Nobody has told me not to play this game or how to bowl. I will go out there to pick as many wickets as possible and win the game," said Mishra.
While there seems to be a turnaround on the no-spinner policy for the practice games, England will still not get a taste of the kind of wickets that would in all probability be rolled out for the Tests. The green tinge on the wicket prepared for the final practice game is visible from outside the boundary, making it clear that the England batsmen will see the ball prancing around on turning tracks only in Test matches.
"There has been no instruction on the nature of wickets for this game. This season the Board has asked us to prepare green-tinged wickets for domestic cricket and this wicket is made accordingly," said Dhiraj Parsana, the former India spinner who is the pitch curator for the first Test.
On the wicket for the Test, all he would say is, "it will be a good wicket". The genial old man was trying to keep a secret that's out since England touched down in India. Whatever the mind games or agendas involved in the match, the Haryana players are glad to get a game against an international side.
Swann rushes home
Graeme Swann has flown home to be with his infant daughter, who is unwell, but will return in time to play the first Test next week, the ECB said.