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India v South Africa, 3rd Test, Kanpur
Sanjay Manjrekar: 'Bounce will be key in Kanpur'
April 10, 2008
India could play three spinners, while South Africa's bowlers could be tested - a preview to the third Test
 
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The pitch and injuries to Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble means that India will have to take a call on whether to play Piyush Chawla or not © AFP
 

Sanjay Manjrekar: The third and final Test between India and South Africa starts tomorrow at the Green Park in Kanpur. The name 'Green Park' is a bit of a misnomer isn't it, because on very few occasions the pitch has actually been green in Kanpur. The typical Kanpur pitch - the one that I remember - is one where all the grass, all the greenery is on the outfield while the pitch is typically white and a bit grey in the mornings. The bounce is key here - the bounce on this pitch never goes above knee-level. It has done a bit more on rare occasions but most of the time, the cricket that is played here has been played at knee-level. So that is the history and the basic nature of the pitch.

I believe that there will be an attempt by the local association to give India a pitch that will help them square the series. There is a lot of talk about the pitch being a real turner's paradise. But my feeling is that the curator has to make an important call. If he tries to create a pitch that will last for five days but will help the spinners more than it has done in the series so far, he might just end up preparing a pitch that is manageable. He has to take a call, where he has to commit himself to [preparing] a turning pitch - which means no watering today; a certain amount of removal of grass and quietly brushing some areas of the pitch.

That is where India then comes in to the game. We might go back to a situation like in the 1990s where India played three spinners. The fitness doubts over the two spinners - [Anil] Kumble and Harbhajan [Singh] - might also tempt India into trying the fully-fit Piyush Chawla or Ramesh Powar. So it might be a call that India would take [whether or not to play three spinners].

South Africa have a test here. They were impressive in Ahmedabad. If they see this as a turning pitch with India trying to get back in the series, it will test their versatility as a team. When Australia see a typical Indian turning pitch, they don't talk too much about spin. They talk about their own fast bowlers and how they will use the pitch. So immediately a Glenn McGrath would say, "This is a pitch for off-cutters". Jason Gillespie will bowl quick or right up, to the batsmen, and use the seam and his fingers to kill the pace and get it [the ball] to cut a lot, to make life difficult for the batsmen. Whether the South African pacemen can do that, is something we will have to wait and see. So it is a bit of a test for the South African bowlers.

I think the Indian batsmen will have a reasonably good time. If it is a dry, turning pitch, I think they will be able to manage the South African pacemen because then the bounce goes out of the game. There is not that kind of bounce in Kanpur - the problem in Ahmedabad was that there were a couple of inches of extra bounce which made life really difficult [for the Indian batsmen].

So once again it is the curator again who has to take the responsibility of making this match memorable. If he goes all out for India, we might see a turning pitch that will really help the Indian spinners and make India the favourites. But the last thing you want is a pitch like the one we had against Australia in Mumbai at the Wankhede [2004-05], where a turning pitch was attempted but in the end it turned out to be a pitch on which the Test lasted for two days and 11 overs. I'll never forget that Test where Michael Clarke picked up 6 for 9.

So let us hope that they don't make a mockery of the match. I would prefer it if the curator just prepared a good pitch that will help spin rather than becoming a true Indian fan and give everything on the platter to the spinners. The last thing we want is the series to finish on a note where it is the pitch gets all the attention for not being of the quality that one needs to have at the Test level.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar is a cricket commentator and presenter on TV. @sanjaymanjrekar


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