World T20: Good Wankhede pitch may cause bad vibes in India camp

  • Sanjjeev K Samyal/Kushal Phatarpekar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 29, 2016 07:24 IST
India team director Ravi Shastri and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni inspect the pitch during a practice session on the eve of the fourth ODI against South Africa in Chennai, on October 21, 2015. (AP File Photo)

On their flight from Chandigarh to Mumbai for Thursday’s semifinal, if they had any West Indies player on their minds, it would be Chris Gayle. Gayle vs India bowlers is what will dominate India’s gameplan.

Their first strategy will centre around attacking Gayle with spin. Not only because India’s main bowler is R Ashwin, but they would also expect the wicket to aid spin. So far, at all four venues, it was easy for India to chalk out plans as they played on typical sub-continent wickets. However, MS Dhoni and Co will not be sure what to expect at the Wankhede Stadium. The group games at Mumbai were high scoring. But the semifinal will be played on the centre wicket, which will be used for the first time in the tournament. The main-wicket is only used for India games or Ranji matches. The last international match to be played here was the fifth ODI of the India versus South Africa series. It was a batting beauty and India lost after SA amassed 400 plus, triggering a controversy over the pitch preparation.

In the build-up to the semifinal, the ICC wants to guard the groundstaff against any pressure from the hosts. HT has learnt that the ICC’s chief of grounds and pitches committee, Andy Atkinson, has spoken to the Wankhede groundstaff, directing them to inform him if any party tries to influence pitch preparation. Around the time India landed in Mumbai on Monday, a normal Wankhede wicket was being rolled, on which 175-180 will be a good total. But the hosts may not be pleased with that.

In the offices of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), last-minute scramble for tickets was bigger than usual. A big international tie here usually sees a rush for tickets among fans. Funnily enough, the same rush is seen among cricket officials as well. With India reaching the semifinal, the rush of last-minute ticket-seekers has shot up. “If you receive any tickets please hand a few to me,” joked a joint secretary of the MCA to a club member.

On Monday, after India’s entry into the semis was confirmed, there was a spurt in demand. In a meeting, it was decided that members who had not applied for tickets could be allowed two tickets at Rs 1500 each. Some tickets available with clubs are expected to go for Rs 10,000 or higher.

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