Eden Gardens pitch still a mystery

In the midst of the frenzy surrounding Sachin Tendulkar’s 199th Test, a figure that never sounded and looked as romantic as it is sounding at the moment, it’s very easy to forget that two countries — India and the West Indies, are competing in a two-Test series, a sequence of games neither team would like to come second in.

MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar
MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar at practice in Kolkata yesterday

Given Tendulkar’s contribution to cricket, the euphoria is understandable, but both sides are focussing hard not to get swayed by emotions. “The attention being given to Sachin was expected, but we’re trying to minimise the distraction and it’s been so far so good,” said India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the pre-match press conference.

With Tendulkar’s every little move during the nets session going under the microscope, Dhoni was asked about the details of the conversation the batting maestro was having with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. “Sachin has always communicated well with the youngsters. He always advises them and shares his experience,” said Dhoni.

Rohit’s a certainty
Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma, who has been in rollicking form, is virtually certain to make his Test debut today, but the skipper chose to play it safe, claiming they had not decided upon the playing XI. “Rohit has been in excellent form, but we are yet to decide on the 11. We will have another look at the pitch in the morning and then take a call,” was his guarded response.

Rohit Sharma and Chris Gayle
India’s Rohit Sharma and West Indies big-hitter Chris Gayle during a practice session at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata yesterday

Dhoni went on to explain the logic behind this. “We are yet to decide whether to field four or five bowlers.” But, if one were to go by what transpired in the nets over the past couple of days, it’s almost certain that Rohit will win his India Test cap today.

How will it play?
The mystery surrounding the pitch too refused to go away, so much so that Dhoni was unwilling to hazard a guess about how it would behave. “We will see tomorrow. They had watered it today, so we need to wait and watch.” His West Indian counterpart, Darren Sammy was more forthcoming.

“It already seems like a fourth-day track, with all the cracks that are visible,” said the affable Sammy. Things have not been helped by the fact that the curator, Prabir Mukherjee, who is known to be outspoken has been gagged by the Cricket Association of Bengal this time.

Windies satisfied
Meanwhile, the visitors, who last played a Test in March are satisfied with their preparations, the injuries to a couple of key players notwithstanding. “We have enjoyed a good tour match here and the boys who were looking to get used to the red ball again are happy with the way we performed.,” said Sammy.

Speaking about the shoulder trouble bothering paceman Kemar Roach and off-spinner Shane Shillingford, Sammy said they were recovering well and he hoped they could make it to the playing XI. ¬†Questions were also asked whether he saw Tendulkar as a threat, now that he is only a couple of games away from hanging his boots. Sammy said: “We are looking at every player as a threat.

If you take the first nine wickets and the batsman coming in at 11 goes on and scores, then he is a threat. This happened to us at the Wankhede in 2011 when R Ashwin hit a century. So, I would say we are going to be careful about every batsman.”¬†

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