“Arre pitch dekha nahi bhai, Vishwas karo!” Amit Mishra, his thigh heavily strapped, says as he walks inside the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. Beside him is Mohammad Shami who smiles before walking away. The seamer and the leggie are at the National Cricket Academy for rehab from injuries, and both realise the frenzy that’s about to set in the city.
Leaving the two cricketers in the outdoors café with their South Indian snacks, you head to the stadium to see a surprising sight: water sprinkling here and there. Where Pune looked a parched desert, the groundstaff at stadium in Bangalore aren’t being miserly with water. Not yet. The word is that the pitch would be a slow turner — something that would help spin from second or third day but it won’t be a sand pit. A usual Bangalore track, in other words.
The teams are expected to come Tuesday evening into the city and would be coming to the stadium on Wednesday. It’s ironical that just when the memories of South Africa Test in Nagpur seemed a distant memory, especially after a fabulous home season, the shenanigans in Pune have brought the pitch back in focus. Indians worked hard through the season to dispel any talk about pitch as conspiratorial nonsense from media, but here we are, a week from the Test, and all the talk has come down to the 22-yard strip.
No one is obviously giving any official quotes about the pitch, but where is the fun in that? As if anyone in Pune was musing about sand pit before the game! It’s the rumours that one is interested anyway. You walk out to the entrance area, where police and association heads are sauntering about, to do some small talk when Brijesh Patel, former KSCA president who resigned post Supreme Court developments, walks in. He might have resigned but obviously hasn’t severed his ties, but when asked about the pitch, he smiles, puts his hands upwards and walks off.
And so you hit the clubhouse area. It’s early evening and only thing flowing is filter coffee and the savoury khara bhath that closely resembles upma but tastes way better. Familiar faces — from umpires, scorers, officials, admin staff — are lounging about. Sip some coffee, and gulp in some gossip. Talk revolves how the pitch backfired in Pune (for India that is), and how the non-spinner Stephen O’Keefe was the best because he was the “worst” spinner out there. Someone says, India should have tried M Vijay or even Cheteshwar Pujara — India’s worst might have turned it less and produced better results. If only the game was as simple as that but you move on and bring the discussion to the pitch in Bangalore.
Would there be a word from the Indian management here? After the laughter subsides, an official points out the strained relations between India’s head coach Anil Kumble and Brijesh Patel’s men. “You know the history and how the election was fought last time around. Even if Brijesh has resigned, it’s his men who are running the show. It would be really surprising if Kumble or anyone else has any demands here.”
Not everyone agrees with that argument. Someone would come with a request or two, they say. But if the track plays out like a normal Bangalore track — spin but nothing alarming like Pune, Indians might be happy with that. The consensus about the pitch is that there will be spin but not from the first ball. It seems a fairly sensible thing to do after what went down in Pune, but time will tell.