India vs South Africa: Another turner waits Proteas in Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla

Rarely has the nature of cricket pitches attracted so much attention in a Test series held in India. But after winning well inside three days in Mohali and Nagpur, the Indian curators are under scanner for rolling out what could be called an “unsupportive” five-day pitch.

Ferozshah Kotla Stadium, Delhi

Debating over Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla pitch makes even more sense because of its past history. It was here on December 27, 2009 that India-Sri Lanka match was called off after just 23 deliveries because of “unplayable” surface.

When the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief curator Daljit Singh, the chief architect of Mohali’s wicket that started taking turn from the word go, took control of the Kotla ground on Saturday, memories of one-year ban following that 2009 episode suddenly came haunting local groundsmen.

With Team India director Ravi Shastri commending the nature of the pitches in Mohali and Nagpur, there was no doubt in the minds of many local groundsmen that “all their efforts to provide a good Test wickets would come to a nought” in the next few days.

“Look at the surface right now… It’s firm and hard with lot of new grass onto it,” said a local groundsman on condition of anonymity. It must be mentioned here that all these groundsmen were on the verge of strike just a few days back when DDCA failed to clear their salary and pending dues before Diwali.

With funds from BCCI flowing in following Delhi High Court’s go ahead for the final Test, the salary part has been more or less settled and bonus has also been promised by DDCA treasurer Gopi Manchanda after the match.

DDCA pitch curator Ankit Datta has been readying Kotla’s centre-wicket for the final Test. He believed that this pitch can also produce turn from the first session but for that this wicket needs to keep dry for the next three days with a hope of bright sunshine.

This certainly means that all the help that pace bowlers generated in the two Ranji Trophy games played on the very surface this season could well be compromised to suit the Team India demands. But then Meteorological department’s prediction of mostly cloudy conditions could well make things difficult for Kotla curator.

“This is an international series and you get the instructions from the team management only once. You won’t be reminded twice about the nature of pitches that the hosts want. It will be a result-oriented track. If you can’t apply yourself against the spin, then there’s something wrong with the technical skills of batsmen. Don’t complain about the wicket on offer. Put Sachin (Tendulkar), Rahul (Dravid) or VVS (Laxman) on these tracks and they will show the required patience and application to negate the turn,” a DDCA official told dna.

Daljit, meanwhile, had a meeting with Datta and Co., and former India opener Chetan Chauhan, who is technically the chief curator of Delhi.

Delhi, unlike other grounds, has a problem of low bounce. The last match played at the Kotla in March 2013 between India and Australia had ended in three days with the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja accounting for 17 wickets between them.

“Kotla is a slow and turning track with pacers getting advantage because of North cold conditions early on. If anyone tries to change the basic nature of the pitch, then he must remember what happened in 2009 when a similar experiment was tried,” cautioned a former India batsman.