New Delhi, Jan. 14 -- Going by the accounts of his teammates, hardly any pitch has had Sachin Tendulkar worried in his career. The one at the Palam ground - a first-class centre, which he has visited only for practice sessions with the India team before - may just intrigue him once he visits it on Tuesday morning.
The wicket, which was re-laid in July last, is new and the low scores through the season show it has been hard work for batsmen (see box), although almost all of them who've played here have been from Group C, the lowest rung of domestic cricket.
Severe winter has added to the pitch woes. The ground-staff has had to deal with the brownish (dried) grass and had to work hard to bring life into it. Experts say that during the winters, the grass lies dormant. In short, it doesn't grow well and the extremely low temperatures have made things worse.
The ground-staff had to use chemicals to ensure proper growth of grass. BCCI's chief curator, Daljit Singh, and Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association curator, Samandar Singh, paid a visit to the ground to assist in pitch preparation. "We have been trying to make a wicket that helps seamers," said curator Ashok Verma. "The batsmen can score too but only if they apply themselves." The latter statement says as much. If Tendulkar has to score, he'll have to grind hard. The Mumbai Cricket Association had requested the game to be shifted to their home. But the BCCI turned down the request, saying that Services should play host because of the rotation policy.
Tendulkar's two tons in his two previous Ranji games this season were made on featherbeds.
It should be noted that the ground conditions at the 'B' ground - adjacent to the 'A' ground where this game is being played - was criticised severely by Punjab captain and India spinner Harbhajan Singh during the national one-dayers last season. The wicket, even at 'A' ground, during those one-dayers remained sluggish and tough for batting and it was just after that the wicket was re-laid.
However, the England vs India A warm-up produced runs at over 4.5 an over. But that was a one-dayer.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.