By BV Swagath
It is all about how the pitch will play at the Wankhede Stadium as the Second Test at Mumbai begins on Friday. There is immense pressure on the Curator Sudhir Naik to produce a rank turner at the Wankhede. Although there is a nice green covering on the pitch prior to the match, the strip most likely will be completely bald tomorrow morning. The Curator seems to have been clearly told to prepare a pitch that will take turn right from the word go. Not only has MS Dhoni insisting on this but even the BCCI has given the instructions to the host states to prepare square turners.
The pitch at the Motera in Ahmedabad in the First Test had a lot of suspense to it as it was the first competitive match played on the surface after being relaid. It did take a fair bit of turn but there was hardly any pace and bounce to really trouble the batsmen who would just go on the backfoot to make the necessary adjustments. In Mumbai, things should be different though as traditionally the pitch here with a reddish brown look to it does offer quick turn and bounce. Even the seamers do have a role to play because of the bounce and with the sea around, the ball does swing in the air as well.
As far as the team compositions are concerned, India is a well settled unit and at the most there will be just the one change in the lineup. Umesh Yadav is more than likely to be rested because of a back strain with Ishant Sharma expected to take his place. Harbhajan Singh will be sitting out again but there is some pressure now on Ashwin to get amongst the wickets which he struggled to take in the English second innings in the First Test.
England have a couple of problems on the availability of its players. Ian Bell has left to the UK for his wife’s delivery and as we know Steven Finn has been ruled out with a thigh injury. The bad news is that Stuart Broad is not feeling too well. England thus could make three changes with Bairstow or Morgan coming in for Bell, Monty Panesar coming in for Tim Bresnan and Stuart Meaker or Graham Onions likely to play in case Broad remains to be unwell.
Should it be a rank turner at the Wankhede, then India will be the hot favourites to win the Test and the match itself is unlikely to last the five days if that is the case. England often lose it in the mind when they come across dry square turning pitches. Batting wise on sporting surfaces, both the teams match each other and with Skipper Alastair Cook in prime touch, England may not go down without a fight as they did at Motera.
India Squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (C&WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Pragyan Ojha, Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, Harbhajan Singh, Ashok Dinda
England Squad: Alastair Cook (C), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Matt Prior (WK), Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan, Jonathan Bairstow, Graham Onions, Joe Root, Stuart Meaker