Will Harbhajan Singh get a chance to work his magic at the Eden Gardens again?
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Eden Gardens has been a Test venue for the last 71 years, and has hosted 33 Test matches. India has won seven of those matches, while the opposing teams have prevailed eight times; the other 18 matches have been drawn.(Click here to check the results of all Tests at Kolkata.)
While the first five Tests here were all drawn, of late, Eden Gardens has become a more result-oriented venue: six of the last seven Tests have produced a decisive result, with India winning four of them - twice against Australia, and once each against England and South Africa.
Pakistan have an excellent record here - they've won one Test and drawn four, and have beaten India all three times in ODIs. In fact, Pakistan have won four out of five one-dayers here - the only time they lost was when Sri Lanka trumped them in the second final of the Independence Cup in 1997.
There have been reports suggesting that the pitch might favour the seamers this time, but if past record is any indication, the decision at the toss should be a no-brainer - the captain winning it should bat. Only five times in 33 matches has a team chosen to field after winning the toss.The last time it happened was nine matches back, in 1986-87, when Imran Khan put India in to bat. India ended up making 403 in their first innings, and the match was drawn.
Teams have usually opted to bat after winning the toss, but the average first-innings total isn't a huge one - in the last five Tests here, going back to 1997-98, teams average 30.32 per wicket in the first innings, 43 in the second, 41.04 in the third and 25.64 in the fourth. This suggests the pitch offers something to the bowlers early on, then settles down into an excellent batting track, and then aids the bowlers again on the final day. That's almost the perfect Test wicket isn't it?
In the last five Tests, each team chose to bat after winning the toss, but the average score at the end of the first day was only a modest 247 for 8. In fact, the decision backfired rather badly on two occasions - in 1997-98, Australia were bowled out for 233, while Pakistan were reduced to 26 for 6 a year later, though they recovered to score 185 and ended up winning the match.
Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, or both? That's the question that India's think-tank have to answer, and while Kumble has been the in-form bowler in Tests lately, Harbhajan's record at Kolkata is a compelling reason for him to find a place in the XI - 29 wickets in four matches at 18.75. Kumble's numbers at this venue pale in comparison - 25 wickets in six matches at 35.08, more than seven runs off his career average.
Since 1998, fast bowlers have done better than spinners here. The 89 wickets by fast bowlers has come at 32.62 apiece, while spin has accounted for 67 wickets at 41.31. Indian spinners, though, have had a much better time of it, taking 52 wickets at 28.96.
If it's Kolkata, then the VVS factor has to be mentioned. In six Tests here, he averages 84.67, with two centuries and three fifties. Sachin Tendulkar, in contrast, hasn't had such a good time here, while for Sourav Ganguly, his home venue has been a nightmare - in ten innings, he has only managed one fifty. Rahul Dravid's numbers here are almost as good as his career stats.
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Cricinfo. For some of the stats, he was helped by Arun Gopalakrishnan, the operations manager in Cricinfo's Chennai office.