India v West Indies, 2nd Test, Mumbai November 11, 2013

Mumbai curator won't be swayed by Tendulkar emotion

Sudhir Naik, the curator at the Wankhede stadium, wants Sachin Tendulkar to score a century in his 200th and final Test, which begins in Mumbai on November 14, but made it clear the batsman would not get any favours as far as the pitch was concerned.

"I will be happy if he gets a hundred because I want that," Naik told ESPNcricinfo as he was busy giving the final touches to the ground. "I also want the century because he is our boy, Bombay boy. He has done so well all his career, so let people remember him forever ki isne last match main bhi sau banaya (because he made a century in his last match).

"He is good enough to do it himself. He does not need my help. This wicket is good enough for batting so that might automatically help him," Naik said. "It will be an emotional one, definitely, because I have seen him right from his first day in first-class cricket till the day he leaves the game. So not seeing him again will be difficult. But we have rules and norms to follow so my emotions will not get in the way of my work."

According to Naik, neither has anyone from the BCCI issued a directive to make a particular kind of surface, nor will he be under duress himself. "I will be under no pressure for any match because my approach is simple," he said. "I have to prepare something which is good for cricket."

Naik is presently in his second stint as curator for the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), where he has served in other roles too. His first term began in 1986 but he left disappointed and angry after the 1996 World Cup, having received no acknowledgement from the MCA managing committee for the hard work he had put into relaying the Wankhede pitch and the outfield, in addition to refurbishing the entire ground as well as raising the floodlights.

However, after the infamous Test between India and Australia in 2004 ended in three days despite most of the first being washed out, the MCA asked Naik to come back. The first match of his second stint was the India-England Test in 2006, when the visitors won on the final day. Naik is proud that his pitches have lasted long and helped both batsmen and bowlers.

"My approach is I always prepare a sporting wicket," he said. "If I am correct, every Test match I have been the curator of has lasted till the fifth day, except the four-day Test against England in December 2012."

Although he has no count of the number of Tests for which he has been head groundsman, Naik is aware that Tendulkar has scored only one century at the Wankhede - against Sri Lanka in 1997. Naik was not the curator at the time. In 10 Tests at this venue, Tendulkar has scored 847 runs at an average of 47.05, and though he has only one hundred, he has made two scores in the 90s.

It is understood the Wankhede pitch will stay firmer than the abrasive surface at Eden Gardens, which Darren Sammy said resembled a fourth-day pitch on the eve of the Test. There was uneven bounce throughout the Kolkata Test and the ball also deviated sharply off the surface. The groundsman had not had enough time to bind the wicket properly because of unseasonal rains in the lead-up to the match.

The Wankhede wicket, however, is expected to offer good bounce to the bowlers as well stay firm and only wear off gradually. Naik is confident it will last the whole five days. He knows that Tendulkar will come and have a quiet word with him about the pitch, as he always does. He complimented Naik and his team after the 2011 World Cup final for preparing a "nice wicket," appropriate for a good ODI contest.

According to Naik, it was harder to prepare the pitch for the World Cup final than it is for Tendulkar's farewell Test. "It was a fresh wicket and people were worried about whether there will be bounce and how it will behave. This match, not many would be bothered, because the focus and attention will be on Sachin."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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