New Delhi: A pleasant surprise awaits Carl Hooper's West Indies when it tours India next month - green, bouncy wickets that will bring smiles to the faces of the Caribbean pacemen.
The traditionally low and slow pitches tailor-made for India's spinners, which made the hosts almost invincible at home, is now a thing of the past following a new initiative by the country's cricket chiefs. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) hired experts from the New Zealand Turf Sports Institute (TSI) in May to re-lay wickets at major international venues across the country. Their efforts will be tested when the West Indies play three Test matches and seven One-day Internationals during the seven-week tour of India starting on October 4. The first and third Tests will be played on newly laid wickets at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai and the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. The Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, where the second Test is scheduled, is already regarded as the most sporting Test venue in India with a wicket that aids fast bowlers willing to bend their backs. "The West Indies is in for a real surprise," said TSI representative William Walmsley after inspecting the new wickets at Mumbai and Kolkata. "I am impressed by what I see today. We had earlier suggested a few measures for true, sporting and lively wickets and they seemed to have been followed well." The pitches were re-laid in the last three months with Bermuda grass used to induct life into them, Walmsley said. But even Walmsley was unsure whether the untested wickets would live up to expectations when the Test series starts in Mumbai on October 9. "We have to wait and watch as to how the pitches play for the first year," he said. "We worked on pitches back in New Zealand as a result of which the performance of our national team has improved in the recent past. "Lets all hope for the same here." The BCCI's chief grounds inspector, Kasturi Rangan, said the home captain would not be allowed to interfere in the preparation of wickets for Test matches. Indian captains in the past were often known to force the ground staff to prepare barren wickets to suit the home team's spinners.
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