It’s a ‘pitched’ battle for weary MCA

The ground staff is working day and night to get the Pune pitch ready for India’s second Test against South Africa, beginning Thursday. DH FILE PHOTO

Following a baptism by fire, the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium here is now battling against element as it prepares to get a good pitch ready for the second Test of the Freedom Series between India and South Africa.

The last time the MCA Stadium hosted a Test — its debut — the game ended up being remembered for all the wrong reasons.

The Test between India and Australia in February 2017 got over in three days with the latter going on to register a thumping victory on a viciously turning track. Even India were left dumbfounded on the rank-turner, just managing scores of 105 and 107 as they slumped to one of their worst defeats ever at home. The ICC, predictably, came down heavily and match referee Chris Broad rated the pitch as ‘poor’.

Now, an extended monsoon and heavy rainfall until a few days ago are leaving the MCA burning the midnight oil to get a good track ready in time for the second Test that starts on Thursday. The wet weather in the build-up is not an ideal preparation but MCA secretary Riaz Bagwan allayed any concerns of a repeat act in the second Test.

“Yes, it has been raining heavily here but we are all set to host the Test match. The outfield is sand-based, so even if it rains heavily on game days we just need 30 minutes to get the game restarted. The square has been covered which means the pitch has been protected from the elements.”

Sunlight

Pitches need sunlight during the preparation phase but Bagwan said it remaining under covers has not made much of an impact.

“Pitch preparation has not been impacted. It had been raining all night but we played a few practice matches which started at 9:30 am. We are just hoping it doesn’t rain during match hours.”

The sun shone brightly for much of Tuesday as a full strength South Africa and around half of the Indian side slugged it out at the ‘nets’. However, afternoon thundershower has been forecast for all five match days and MCA will be hoping the predictions don’t come true.

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