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Surface tension favours India

Slow pitch for first ODI at the Queen's Park Oval not to the liking of West Indies' skipper.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Port Of Spain |
June 6, 2011 1:36:59 am

It had been steady progress till then,but the second delivery of the eighth over in India’s innings drew a loud collective gasp from the boisterous crowd at the Queen’s Park Oval on Saturday. Apart from being the most loyal and fun-loving among cricket fans around the world,the West Indian fanatics are easily the most animated.

In Trinidad,people choose their stands at the Oval depending on what they want to indulge in while watching the cricket. Like with everything else,the Caribbean is a land full of choices.

The Trini Posse stand not surprisingly is where the youth go and wear down all their inhibitions — quite literally at times — and the rum flows relentlessly along with the music and the Carib girls.

The Brian Lara Member’s Pavilion is where the greats from the past often show up. The Dos Santos and the Learie Constantine stands,on the other hand,are generally filled up with cricket-nuts — young and old — who probably cannot afford the party stands on the other side and are keener on shouting out their comments and observations about the game. In the days gone by,the collective gasp,however,was reserved mainly for when the likes of Michael Holding & Co would make the batsmen dance to the tunes of the original chin music while indulging in their public display of human dissection.

But this particular catharsis of emotion on Saturday,however,had nothing to do with a West Indian fast bowler buzzing a ball past the batsman’s head. The man responsible for the gasp in fact was Ashley Nurse,a young off-spinner playing his second international match. And his deed: pitching an off-break outside Suresh Raina’s leg-stump,bowling around the wicket,and getting it to spin viciously past the left-hander’s off-stump. As the game wore on,many more balls would grip the Queen’s Park surface and flummox the batsman,providing glee to the Indian spinners and adding to the woes of the West Indian batsmen.

Alien conditions for hosts

The pitches in the Caribbean have slowed up considerably in recent years,the reduction of bite almost reflecting the same in West Indies’s bowling ranks. But the hosts have had to contend with near-alien conditions during this summer,with every wicket they have played on so far providing considerable assistance to the spinners — to the extent that Pakistan opened their bowling with off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez in the first Test at Providence,Guyana.

With the first two games in the five-match ODI series,which kicks off on Monday,scheduled at Port-of-Spain,the hosts will once again feel the heat against the Indian spinners.

A predicament skipper Darren Sammy is dreading and definitely not pleased with.

“We had the same experience against Pakistan. Even then the pitches supported them. It’s a home series but it feels like the pitches are out of our control. We can only ask what we want but it’s up to the groundsman to prepare it. We have seen Indians struggle against bounce and pace in the past but we haven’t had wickets to suit us for quite some time now. But there is little we can do about it,” Sammy said following the T20 loss,while adding that the team had originally asked for bouncy wickets to be prepared but in vain.

There are two factors that could buoy the West Indians’ chances though. Firstly,India have won only five ODIs on Caribbean soil since the last 1980s. And with the likes of Dwayne Bravo,Kieron Pollard and veteran Ramnaresh Sarwan returning to the squad after missing out on the T20,the hosts will also have more fire-power in their ranks to make life difficult for the visitors.

Plenty will pour in throw the turnstiles yet again and create a party atmosphere at the Oval,but the West Indians will have to find some way of getting the better off the turning wicket in order to put a different spin on the expected tale.

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