Like Ranchi, Dharamsala too will be making its Test debut when it hosts the fourth Test match between India and Australia. But unlike the pitch in Ranchi, Dharamsala will offer true bounce and carry for all the five days of the Test.
According to chief-curator Sunil Chauhan, who is in-charge of the pitch at the HPCA Stadium, the 22 yard-strip will offer genuine assistance to the faster bowlers. “That is how the nature of the pitch has been here. I have left it grassy and thereby the pacers will have an advantage. It will be fast and so they will play an important role in the match.”
With the highest temperature hovering around 19 degrees and moisture in the pitch, there will be movement off the pitch as well.
As far as the spinners are concerned, the curator maintained that they will get little help. “Unko halki madad milegi (they will get little help).” he said and then pointed out that the bounce will be available for them which will bring the close-in fielders into play.
As far as the batsman are concerned Chauhan said they will face a stern test in the first session of play, throughout the morning-period. But stated that it won’t be unplayable. “The true character of a batsman will be revealed when they bat on this pitch. The fast outfield will earn batsmen value for their shots.” he said. The ground has a lush green 75-yard boundary on all sides.
Meanwhile, there are seven pitches on the central square and the one in the center will be used. Both the captains and their coaches have had a look and seem satisfied about it.
When asked if teams should look to bowl first after winning the toss, the curator refused to comment and left it to the respective think-tanks.
Unlike the pitch in Ranchi which had a muddy appearance, the surface in Dharamsala despite having clay content (nearly 65 percent) is expected to have a greenish tinge to it. The top soil is also changed every season to keep the binding intact.
It may be recalled here that before the previous Test in Ranchi there was a a lot of controversy surrounding the pitch as the Australian media went to allege that it had been doctored and questioned the integrity of Virat Kohli and the curator of the JSCA Stadium in Ranchi.
Clearing the air this time, Sunil Chauhan said, “My job is to prepare a true pitch and I have done that. My team has worked hard with me and there is no question of favouring any team.”
Uptill now the HPCA Stadium has hosted three ODIs and eight T20Is and it has proved to be an even contest between the bat and ball in those. However, in domestic matches (Tests) it is the bowlers who have dominated due to the favourable conditions.
However, irrespective of the conditions in Dharamsala, India will be up for a tough fight with the Border-Gavaskar trophy up for grabs. The series is tied at 1-1 and the fourth Test begins from Saturday.