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Wankhede faces its first test

On Sunday, the stadium will host its first international game in over three-and-a-half years. Though the stands and other facilities look spic and span, it's the all-important 22-yard strip and the outfield that will be under the scanner on Sunday. Abhijeet Kulkarni reports.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2011 01:53 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni

At some other venue or in a different situation, the face-off between New Zealand and Canada would have gone largely unnoticed.

However, the Mumbai Cricket Association, the hosts for Sunday's low-key encounter, could do anything but relax as, after several delays and controversies, the refurbished Wankhede Stadium will face its first real test ahead of the April 2 World Cup final.

On Sunday, the stadium will host its first international game in over three-and-a-half years. Though the stands and other facilities look spic and span, it's the all-important 22-yard strip and the outfield that will be under the scanner on Sunday.

And the teams, as of now, are unsure, to say the least, about how the wicket will behave. "The practice wickets had good bounce and carry. But those wickets had grass, which will be missing on the match turf," said New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor after having two net sessions on practice pitches.

"The new ball is moving well. But it has a tennis ball bounce, and we will have to see how things unfold," he added.

The Black Caps will play their last two group encounters at this venue and a thumping victory over Canada will help them push for the top spot in the points table.

"We have a chance to finish first or second in the group, and we are focussed on that," said the middle-order batsman, who struck a whirlwind century to script a big win over Pakistan in their last game.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/130311/13_03_pg21b.jpg

While the Kiwis have little to worry about on the cricketing front, the virgin pitch could have some influence on the outcome of the game.

The wicket was laid in May last year, but only two Twenty20 games have been played at this venue so far and the outfield also looks far from settled.

Curator Sudhir Naik, however, sees no problems. "I wouldn't have been confident if we were playing a Test match without playing a first-class game on this wicket.

"But we have done a lot of rolling to harden the wicket, and there should be no problem in the one-dayers," he said.

Fingers crossed!