From a distance, it looked like any other Wankhede pitch. A strip of red-clay with some smattering of grass. However there is a bit of brouhaha over this one. Andy Watkinson, the portly custodian of pitches from ICC, has apparently been on the phone from Delhi chatting with the curators. Dhiraj Parsana, West Zone head of BCCI’s pitches and grounds committee, has camped here in Mumbai for the last four days. Gossip floated in the chai canteen in the stadium complex that the ICC is ensuring the track isn’t doctored too much to suit the Indian team. The local curator’s quotes on ‘sporting pitch’ where 175-180 runs can be scored appear in newspapers. Apparently, there will be some turn but not so much as Nagpur or Kolkata and that it will be ‘India friendly’. Basically, there has been a lot of fuss. (STATS || POINTS TABLE || FIXTURES)
But, what is a India friendly pitch? Does this team do better on spin tracks? Not if the opposition has quality spinners as we have found out in Sri Lanka in the past, and recently against New Zealand in Nagpur. And this West Indies team has Samuel Badree, who was anointed as the No. 1 T20 spinner in the world by ICC on Tuesday.
If the pitch serves up a bit of seam movement then this team finds itself in trouble as even Sri Lanka showed in Pune in the first match of a three-match T20 series before the Asia Cup.
What about flat tracks then? Would that help the likes of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to come good and help lessen the burden of Virat Kohli? But if they don’t fire, then West Indies have enough power hitters to blast something in the range of 200 or more on flat tracks, and that could put India under pressure.
ALSO READ: Curb your enthusiasm
Too many questions
Who would have thought that we would sit in India and wonder what a good pitch for the Indian cricket team would be. A pitch that would throw up a bit of turn for their spinners, and also come on to the bat nicely for their out-of-form batsmen but one that doesn’t turn too much or seam around. Whatever. The head hurts.
There was no practice on Tuesday at Wankhede. the West Indies trained at the nearby CCI stadium and no one had much clue what went on the 22-yard track in Wankhede. On Tuesday, the sun beat down hard on it but there was still some amount of grass covering — mostly dead by the time sun set — on it. The practice nets lie within the thirty yard circle, parallel to the match pitch, and on both sides of it. Those ones did aid a lot of turn. Evin Lewis, a left-handed West Indian batsman, was tied up in knots by a local net bowler, a leggie. Poor Lewis would shape to cut but the ball would spin in sharply and wink over the middle stump. But the practice tracks looked a lot darker and pretty different from the main ‘India friendly’ wicket.
Forget the fuss over the strip; what fascinates is how this Indian team finds itself in a stage where it isn’t crystal clear what an ideal pitch is for them. No wonders the curators across the country are in trouble, often veering towards the extreme. Nagpur did them in, Kolkata nearly turned a hellhole and Mohali was a sluggish slug-fest and if it wasn’t for Kohli, they would have been out of the tournament by now. Let’s see what transpires on this track today; however it plays out, it would be interesting to see how this Indian team fares and whether they can give us a clue about what is a good pitch for them.