Nov 022013

KOLKATA: Expect a slow turner at the Eden Gardens where the first Test match between India and the West Indies gets under way on Wednesday. That is the best that CAB’s octogenarian curator Prabir Mukherjee can dish out for Sachin Tendulkar’s 199th Test.

It is unlikely to please the Indian team management, which wanted a turner with some bounce for the spinners to run riot against the Caribbeans.

Mukherjee, who had fallen foul with the Indian team management in the run up to the third Test against England in December last year for refusing to dish out a rank turner, is simply relieved this time to get the centre strip in shape after incessant rains had left the entire Eden outfield soggy, leading to the abandonment of Bengal’s four-day Ranji Trophy tie against Baroda last week without a ball being bowled.

Although the curator had earlier claimed that three days’ of sunshine would be enough to produce a pitch to Sachin’s (read batsmen’s) liking, it now appears that Mukherjee had been over-optimistic in his assessment of the ground conditions. To make matters worse, Mukherjee appears to have shot himself in the foot by shaving off the grass from the pitch five days before the match.

The absence of grass will no doubt hinder the drying up process as the moisture trapped below the surface will take a longer time to evaporate. “The grass could have been kept for few more days.

That would have hastened the drying up process and the pitch would have yielded more bounce,” opined former national selector Raja Venkat after taking a close look at the playing surface on Saturday.

“The bald look of the pitch suggests that it has dried nicely, but there is a lot of dampness in the lower layers of the soil which will not be conducive for good bounce.

So don’t expect the ball to come on to the bat, but the slowness of the surface will give batsmen more time to negotiate the turn spinners extract. The other drawback is that edges may not carry to close-in fielders,” Venkat added.

Spinners on either side will be excited to bowl on the Eden track as cracks begin to appear in the later stages of the game. The problem with Eden pitch is that the CAB curator still uses traditional Indian ‘doab’ grass to bind the surface while most other venues in India have switched to the Bermuda variety, which is denser with longer roots. A pitch dries up by the natural process of evaporation.

As ‘doab’ grass has shorter roots, it has failed to draw up water from the lower layer of the Eden pitch, leaving it damp underneath. Meanwhile, East Zone curator Ashish Bhowmick, who arrived in the city on Saturday, also inspected the Eden track and will be overseeing the pitch-preparation process.

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