NEW DELHI: The Ferozeshah Kotla was a fortress on Tuesday. Three days before the second Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test match, cameras and media were a strict no-no. It was very difficult to get a glimpse of the practice area. All this just for one reason — to keep the nature of the pitch under wraps. Indian cricket board (BCCI) curators Ashish Bhowmik and Tapash Chatterjee are overseeing the preparation.
India coach Rahul Dravid, in fact, reached Delhi a day before the team and has been regularly visiting the Kotla. “Dravid has been visiting the stadium for a couple of days. He is closely monitoring the square to be used for the Test,” a BCCI source said. With a berth in the World Test Championship Final at stake, India are taking no chances. Dravid has taken the lead and has been drawing the team’s plans keeping prevailing conditions in mind.
The Indian team assembled inDelhi on Tuesday evening. While R Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja and KS Bharat travelled from Nagpur, the rest were allowed to take a break after the first Test finished early. The Australian team too landed in Delhi on Tuesday. However, Mitchell Starc has been training in Delhi for the last couple of days.
The pitch may become the centre of discussion again. The Ferozeshah Kotla, known for its slow nature, has managed to host two gripping Test matches which lasted all five days in the last seven years, when matches across India were largely finishing inside four days. The Kotla square has been putting out good pitches with enough carry over the last two years. However, it will be interesting to see how much of that carry it will retain once the Test begins on February 17.
It is understood there have been no specific instructions from the board but it is likely that the Australians will be served spin-friendly conditions. The pitch is likely to take slow turn right through. Delhi has witnessed harsh winter over the last couple of months. The pitch hasn’t got enough time tobake in the sun and become hard enough to enable good carry.
The Australians, though, can take heart from the prevailing chilly conditions. Batting against seam has been particularly tough in the morning sessions in the three Ranji Trophy games here. The retreating winter in Delhi has seen strong chilly winds right through the day. Even if the pitch doesn’t offer much grass, the Australian pacers may still have a chance to get into play.
The Indian team hasn’t asked for absolute raging turners. They prefer to play in conditions that help spinners but the curators are wary of the ball kicking from a spot. The slow pitch, like the one in the first Test in Nagpur, nullifies the threat Pat Cummins, Starc and Josh Hazlewood may pose.
The story of the pitch is unlikely to be very different from Nagpur. Australians will only hope that the windy conditions continue when the Test gets under way on Friday.
Fit Iyer to join team
Shreyas Iyer, who was nursing a back injury at the National Cricket Academy, has been added to the squad ahead of the Test. “Shreyas Iyer has successfully completed his rehab at the NCA following his back injury and has been cleared by the BCCI medical team,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.