A ‘crucial’ 24 hours for Motera curator
The Indian team definitely has its back to the wall but another man is under intense pressure and scrutiny from many sides. Dhiraj Parsana, the curator about whom much has been said and more left unsaid, could find himself at the receiving end of some serious criticism if he does not catch a lucky break in the next 24 hours.
Before this match began, the major fear for the curator was just how dry this pitch was, to the extent that he had to leave some grass on it to bind the top surface. The unseasonal shower that dumped copious amount of water on the ground has turned the scenario on its head.
While the ground staff was in place in a flash, protecting the square, there is always the possibility of water seeping onto the pitch. Late on Friday evening, long after the spectators and everyone else had left the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, the ground staff was still at work. First the super-sopper was pressed into service to remove the water that had collected on the protective covers. Once that was done, the covers were gingerly removed and a layer of 'hessian' placed on the pitch. While this will absorb any surface moisture, it could also cause what the curators call 'sweating', wherein the water that's already in the surface comes to the top as the ground warms up in the sunshine.
If water has not seeped through the covers --- and there was no indication that it had --- and the rain stays away, play should begin on Saturday morning, even if not at 9 a.m. --- the revised start time, 30 minutes earlier than normal, to make up for lost time.
But, even with all the surface water removed, and conditions being fit for play, there's a likelihood that the moisture would have freshened up a surface that looked a batting beauty for the best part of the South African innings. This leaves South Africa with the option of declaring their innings closed immediately when play is called, with a chance for their seam and swing bowlers to exploit the conditions.
Alternately, Graeme Smith could choose to keep the innings going for a few overs --- there's no shortage of time, and keeping India out on the field for long might be an objective with a view to wearing out the players --- and get a taste of exactly how the conditions are playing.
Any which way, the conditions already stacked solidly in South Africa's favour, have just got further skewed. If South Africa's bowlers get stuck into the Indian top order, those gunning for Parsana's head will have more ammunition to play with.