Five of the eight pitches at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium will have their composition changed ahead of the season’s first Ranji Trophy match here on November 28.

All these surfaces will have a red soil topping. The work for the partial relaying of the wickets — the clay base will remain unchanged — began here on Tuesday.

Some work had already been done on the pitch which hosted the recent South-Central Duleep Trophy semifinal; the surface proved result-oriented. Two more tracks will be re-structured later.

There was a belief — backed by scores — that the clay pitches, laid here in 2011, were slow and possessed low bounce. The docile track for the Tamil Nadu-Rajasthan 2012 Ranji Trophy final, in particular, came under criticism.

Previously, red-soil pitches had been popular at Chepauk. Two such surfaces, the ones used for the 2001 and 2004 Tests against Australia, spring to mind. Both had healthy bounce for all bowlers, encouraged strokeplay, and assisted spinners later.

Chepauk’s chief curator K. Parthasarathy said to The Hindu: “A red soil wicket should not be misunderstood for a rank turner. If the wicket is watered and rolled properly, it will produce good, combative cricket on surfaces where the bounce will be good. Traditionally, red soil wickets have worked at Chepauk.”

Parthasarathy revealed four inches of clay will be removed from the top. “Then we will have a thin layer of river sand and an inch of brick jelly. Over that, there will be three inches of red soil. Machines will be used to help bind the three elements, river sand, brick jelly and red soil. We, then, lay the grass. Once it grows, we cut it and do the top dressing.”

P.R. Viswanathan, BCCI zonal curator, South Zone, admitted the pitch for the 2012 Ranji final was not ideal.

He told this newspaper, “proper drying makes the wicket hard, and not rolling alone. But when we roll we should use sufficient moisture. Only then, we will get proper compaction.”

He added: “We should also restrict the use of the heavy roller. We have not done certain things right here. We still do not know how much clay to use and how to use it. Clay pitches, by themselves, have their advantages.”

Ahead of a fresh Ranji season, the ground staff at Chepauk is a busy lot.

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