Eden's dilemma: To roll out a rank turner or not

MS Dhoni has again asked for a track that turns from Day One. Whether he really meant it or the thought of possible embarrassment over changing his stand on the ideal Test wicket forced it out of him is something only he would know. Somshuvra Laha reports.
By Somshuvra Laha | Hindustan Times, Kolkata
UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2012 12:09 AM IST

The Mumbai rout notwithstanding, MS Dhoni has again asked for a track that turns from Day One. Whether he really meant it or the thought of possible embarrassment over changing his stand on the ideal Test wicket forced it out of him is something only he would know.

The bigger question is, whether his demand would be conveyed to Kolkata, the venue for the third Test, as forcefully as it was to Mumbai. And will Kolkata be as accommodating as Mumbai to such a request?

While those concerned are tightlipped on the issue, Dhoni wanting a Mumbai-like wicket in Kolkata has left many stumped.

"The pitch will be different from Mumbai. But a rank turner is also possible if asked for. However, it beats me why Dhoni is still asking for a turner," said former national selector Sambaran Banerjee, who has observed the Eden pitch for over 30 years.

What would make the powers-that-be think twice before making drastic changes to the wicket is India's record at this venue - they have been unbeaten here over the last decade, winning five and drawing two Tests. And as a cherry on the cake, the last two Tests finished in massive victories for the hosts. So why fix what ain't broken?

The Eden wicket has traditionally been quite close to the typical Indian wicket, on which the hosts have vanquished their strongest opponents. The wicket helps pacers initially and then the spinners start asserting themselves from Day Three onwards.

While Harbhajan Singh has been the most successful spinner here with 46 scalps from seven Tests, Javagal Srinath got his career-best of 8-86 against Pakistan here in 1999. And nine of the 20 wickets were taken by Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav in the last Test win over the West Indies.

Will Dhoni get it?
Given what happened in Mumbai and the success India have enjoyed here, it remains to be seen whether Dhoni will get his way here. "It just can't be about the weakness of the opposition, you have to keep in mind the strength of your team too.

By giving a rank turner we would be cramping our batsmen who like the ball to come on to the bat. Most of them are struggling for form, so it would be suicidal to give them a tough wicket to bat on," said an experienced curator.

And no matter how enthralling the Mumbai Test may have been, thanks to Kevin Pietersen and Monty Panesar, rank turners aren't what most will take as an ideal Indian Test wicket.

"This is not the sort of surface you play Test cricket on. It takes skill out of the equation," said Sourav Ganguly while commentating.

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