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Memories of Motera hang over Mohali

The sun?s intensity is muted, the breeze gentle and the heat bearable. Sure signs that winter is about to set in. And yet, the heat is on.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2003 14:43 IST

The sun’s intensity is muted, the breeze gentle and the heat bearable. Sure signs that winter is about to set in. And yet, the heat is on —- there is more talk about the Ahmedabad Test than the one that is going to be played here from October 16.

Wicket, wicked wicket! The wicked Motera wicket is on everyone’s lips, be it the cricketers, the two coaches or the scores of mediamen gathered at the beautifully manicured grassy ground here. The surroundings are serene and the stadium inspires gasps of awe (so beautifully it is structured), yet when there is talk of cricket, passions tend to hold sway over rationale. So be it.

Reason, at the best of times, can be an enemy of joy and fun, so let the heart rule the mind for a while.

The Motera wicket has drawn criticism all round. Sourav Ganguly dumped all the blame of India’s embarrassing draw on the wicket and on Tuesday, he got support from his coach as well. John Wright, always careful with his words and never given to rubbing anyone the wrong way, was also forthright when it came to talking about the nature of the track in the first Test.

The surprise of surprises was that he even went to the extent of saying that the Pitches Committee, of which Venkat Sundaram is the head, has to see what is good for the Indian team.

There is a point in what Wright said. “India is known for its different conditions just like Australia is known for its fast wickets.” He, probably, is right. What will India be if wickets stop turning here. If, one day, Australia have to encounter conditions here similar to what they play in at home, India will no longer be the Final Frontier to be conquered.

New Zealand coach Ashley Ross had a counterpoint. You may dub his comments —- “playing on slow tracks is not the best of preparations for playing in Australia’’ —- mind games, stratagem or frank opinion. Interpret his advice in whatever way you like, but you can’t deny that there is some truth in what he had to say.

But, as Wright said later, home advantage and home conditions play a major role in cricket and if Indian wickets stop turning one day, a lot of fun will be taken away from the game. And, for India, like any other team, winning is more important than pleasing the world.

So the message from the Indian dressing room is obvious: Forget Australia at the moment. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now we are desperate to beat New Zealand and please don’t deny us our home conditions.

The next obvious question is what would the nature of the track here would be. On Tuesday afternoon, you would have been forgiven if you had been led to believe that the square at the centre of the ground here has magnetic propensities —- it had drawn almost every single mediaperson to that place.

Former Ranji player and now curator here, Daljit Singh, would perhaps, never in his life addressed such a captive audience as the one on Tuesday. As he held forth on what the Mohali track is all about, most mediamen listened as if missing even one word of what he had to say would be the greatest tragedy of their lives.

The track’s past record suggests it will have a lot of bounce and yet, warning signals are passed that a wicket is as difficult to read as the human mind.

So, don’t jump to conclusions. The traces of grass on it can be misleading as could the hardness. It is an interesting wicket, said the New Zealand coach. It perhaps is, as the grass covering can’t hide the wide cracks.

Wright will smile if it turns. Ross will sulk if does not produce pace and bounce. And the spectators will have fun if its nature leads to wholesome, entertaining cricket.

Ganguly doubtful for second Test

India skipper Sourav Ganguly is a doubtful starter for the second Test against New Zealand here as he underwent a surgery to remove abscess on his left upper thigh on Tuesday.

Ganguly was taken to the Fortis Hospital near the Punjab Cricket Association stadium after complaining of pain in the left thigh, during the team’s afternoon practice session.

It was learnt that Ganguly had four to five boils in the infected area and the doctors were worried that the infection would spread to the foot.

Ganguly spent nearly two hours at the hospital where he underwent a “minor surgical procedure” under general anaesthesia. The skipper is now resting in the team hotel.

Ganguly, when asked whether he would be fit to play the Mohali Test, told HT: “Let us wait and see.”

It may be recalled that Ganguly had stepped down the batting order in the Ahmedabad Test due to the abscess and had later scored a century after taking pain killers.

Meanwhile, Dr Ashish Bhatia, the director of the hospital, told the media that “the doctors have advised Ganguly 24-hour rest.”

First Published: Oct 15, 2003 00:42 IST