Batsmen likely to make merry at Rajkot as India and South Africa battle to go 2-1 up in the ODI series
Whether it is the old ground or the new one, Rajkot has traditionally been a graveyard for bowlers. A run-feast is expected in the crucial third ODI between India and South Africa, who both are packed with some explosive batsmen, here today.
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India skipper MS Dhoni during a practice session at Rajkot on Saturday. Pic/PTI
Though the turf of the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) stadium is lush-green, there is little or no grass on the pitch on which the two sides will battle to go 2-1 up in the five-match series. "There are plenty of runs in this wicket," said Rajkot's experienced curator Rasik Makwana, for whom it has become a refrain to say that one-day cricket is a batsmen's game and is meant for entertainment.
Rajkot has had a dry season and the due factor will also be minimal at this time of the year. The best of speedsters and spinners have often proved stingless in Rajkot and it will be no wonder if Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Imran Tahir and Harbhajan Singh meet similar fate.
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"Hopefully there is some help for bowlers in this wicket," said Kumar on Saturday. "Our confidence is high after the Indore win and we are determined to keep up the momentum," he added.
The visiting batsmen, who were at sixes and sevens against spinners Axar Patel and Harbhajan in Indore, should feel a bit relaxed on the Rajkot wicket, which offers neither a prodigious turn to the slow bowlers nor help generate express pace and swing to the pace bowlers.
In fact, the wicket will offer a good opportunity to the likes of Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Hashim Amla and David Miller to regain their touch and plunder some runs.
Except perhaps South Africa's pace attack, there is little that separates the two teams. Faf du Plessis, who addressed the media, also seemed to keep his fingers crossed and implied that South Africa and India have a 50-50 chance. And this is the best thing — 50-50 chance.
Home advantage has become a thing of the past in this age of Twenty20 cricket. The Indian players ought to know this better. The visitors beat them in three matches in a row — two Twenty20 games and the first ODI — and threatened to win the second ODI as well before Mahendra Singh Dhoni thwarted their ambition.
And it is to the irrepressible Dhoni again that the rejuvenated Indian team will look for a dose of inspiration, both as player and captain, in Rajkot and the rest of the series.
Total number of runs scored in the 2013 India vs England clash — the last ODI played at Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot