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Ashwin hopes brighten on baking pitch

The first thing that attracts attention on entering the MA Chidambaram Stadium is at the centre of the ground. The playing strips are under the shadow of a makeshift tent as a protection from the blazing sun. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2011 01:35 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

The first thing that attracts attention on entering the MA Chidambaram Stadium is at the centre of the ground. The playing strips are under the shadow of a makeshift tent as a protection from the blazing sun.

This has been done to prevent the pitch from getting dry which results in the crust breaking up and helping the ball grip the pitch and spin.

This indicates that spinners will get some assistance over the remainder of this week.

England face the West Indies on Thursday before India take on the Caribbeans on Sunday. England's narrow victory over the South Africans at the venue was also a low-scoring affair.

Twin spin
For India, this means that they must field two spinners. "We will be crazy if we don't play two spinners," said England off-spinner Graeme Swann, confirming what the need of the hour is.

This state of the pitch raises a question. With Harbhajan Singh a certainty in the 11, should the other one be leg-spinner Piyush Chawla or off-spinner R Ashwin? Chawla has played three games so far with insignificant returns, while Ashwin is still waiting for his maiden World Cup cap.

Expert view
"Because the other spinners have not done that well, Ashwin is worth a look," Erapalli Prasanna, former India off-spinner, told HT. "Ashwin turns the ball and can be a handful on wickets that assist spin. His line and length is consistent. Also, his variations in flight and pace are intelligent."

Extra pressure
Tamil Nadu coach WV Raman, under whom Ashwin made his first-class debut, said this shouldn't be a problem.

"The West Indies have a number of left-handers and if Ashwin bowls in tandem with Harbhajan, it would mean pressure on them from both ends. Harbhajan's efficiency has got diluted so far because the opponents have played safe against him knowing that there is no pressure from the other end."

There are two reasons to let Ashwin play against WI. They are not aware of the variations Ashwin has and if MS Dhoni has to finalise his plans before the knockout stage, Sunday's game will be his last chance.