After the run riot at Motera, the series faces a challenge at the Green Park Stadium here. The bowlers need to be in with a chance for the match to keep the spectators engaged. This said, the surface here for the Test against South Africa in 2008 was rather heavily loaded in favour of the spinners.
India needed to square the series and an under-prepared pitch that turned square from day one suited the home team’s purpose.
But then, Kanpur as a Test venue came under the scanner after the Test and the host association had to answer questions aplenty after South Africa submitted a rather strong report on that Test.
“You will not have a repeat of that kind of a pitch. I had a good look at the surface for the match,” assures Daljit Singh, who heads the country’s wicket and grounds panel.
These are not the easiest of days for Daljit. Following the criticism of the pitch for the first Test, the surfaces for the rest of the series will be under a microscope. But then, the committee has loads of time to prepare a proper Test match wicket.
Short-sighted solutions for immediate needs eventually hurt the game’s cause and diminish the value of individual performances. This series screams for a sporting wicket at Kanpur.
There are indications that the authorities here are not taking a chance with the pitch. Although a fresh wicket has been laid at this venue, the second Test would be played on an adjacent pitch, holding no devils, where matches have been staged earlier.
The nature of the surface is not the only concern for the Sri Lankans though. The side has a few fitness issues to resolve as well.
Key batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan — who hurt his nose in a freak accident after the first Test — trained here on Sunday with a bandage wrapped around the injured area. The dashing opener is expected to be fine for Tuesday’s Test.
However, with the pacy Dammika Prasad virtually out of the match with a hamstring pull, the visitors will have to look for a new ball partner for the impressive Chanaka Welegedara. Fast bowler Dilhara Fernando, who has replaced the injured Thilan Thushara in the squad, can bowl with pace and thrust. However, Fernando has run into serious no-balling problems in the past. Nuwan Kulasekara, slower but more accurate bowler, offers the side greater consistency.
The weather at this time of the year in these parts could also influence the course of the Test. The mornings could be foggy and this might delay the start of the play in the first session. And the sun sets quickly in winter, cutting into play in the last session.
As Daljit confided, “If we are unlucky with the weather, we could lose around eight hours of play in the Test.” Eight hours is more than a day’s play.
Given the likely weather, it is imperative that we have a pitch where the bowlers are in with a shout. Otherwise, we could so easily have another draw in the series.
It would not suit India’s interest to leave everything to the last Test. The pitch at the Brabourne Stadium for the final match is expected to be a result-oriented one which suggests the Sri Lankans would have a fair chance. A single Test could decide the series.
The Sri Lankans did put the Indians under pressure in the first Test, both on the first morning and on the final day before Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman ensured a draw.
Scripting escape acts is not always possible. For instance, India, 32 for four on the first morning at Motera, could so easily have been 100 for seven had the technically and temperamentally sound Rahul Dravid not proved a road-block. The Indian recovery was essentially scripted around Dravid.
Had India been dismissed for around 200 in the first innings, there might have been no comebacks...even on the dead Motera wickets. From the hot and dusty Ahmedabad, to the hustle and bustle of a busy Kanpur in winter...the cricket caravan moves on.