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Bitter home truths for champs CSK

Chennai coach Fleming caught off-guard by pitch which transformed from low and slow last season to a grassy, seamer-friendly track. Subhash Rajta reports. Home disadvantage

india Updated: Apr 06, 2012 02:33 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
CSK,ms dhoni,ipl5

The last thing, or rather the first thing, the IPL needed was any question over the wicket, that too on the opening night of the tournament.

But that's exactly what happened on Wednesday night, what with the track attracting more attention than the performers.

To start with, the dramatic and quick change in the nature of the MA Chidambaram stadium pitch, from a bald, low and slow spin-friendly track of last year into a grassy, seamer-friendly surface where "some balls flew and some kept low". Nothing wrong with that, except it was two-paced, and the bounce was not consistent.

"The inconsistency was because of the uneven surface, dotted with tufts of grass. The ball took off when it landed on grass, and stayed low when it hit the barren areas," said a pitch expert, requesting anonymity. "The wickets are newly laid, and so aren't settled. Besides, they couldn't handle the grass properly."

Caught off guard
This drastic change in the wicket has left the home team not too amused. Stephen Fleming, the Chennai Super Kings coach, said the wicket robbed them of their 'home advantage'.

"We, like Mumbai, were a little bit unsure how the pitch was going to play. And that took away the element of home advantage we have enjoyed for some time. That is not an excuse, it is a fact," he said.

Coming to think of it, the former Kiwi skipper did not empathise with Shane Warne last year when the then Rajasthan Royals skipper lamented the loss of 'home advantage' after being ordered to play on a wicket not of their liking, against the visiting CSK. All he said then was, "We played on the wicket we were offered and I am glad we played well."

Slow is steady
Anyhow, on Thursday, the Kiwi left no stone unturned to push his case for retaining the home superiority.

"We have built our team over the years keeping in mind the conditions and nature of the wicket. Now, with the wicket changing in character, we have to go back to the drawing board. We are under pressure at home to find a style that makes us the tough team to beat again." To his credit though, he didn't entirely blame the wicket for the loss.

Harbhajan Singh too, despite being on the wining side, admitted that there was a lot of grass and it helped the seamers.

"The ball swung quite a bit, especially in the second half when we were batting," he said.

It's the first match on the pitch, and hence everyone might like to reserve their judgement. But in case the next matches too throw up small totals, the team might have something more to say, and in more clear terms.

First Published: Apr 06, 2012 00:02 IST