India v Sri Lanka, 2nd ODI, Mohali October 27, 2005

Toss could once again be vital



The Super Sub's spot could well go to a batsman like Suresh Raina © Getty Images

Already much has been spoken and written about the positive body language and oneness of the Indian team after just one win. But it could have easily been so different had Rahul Dravid's deft flick of the coin landed the other way. Which is not to say that the result would necessarily have been different, but one-day cricket is such a fickle mistress that a simple thing like the toss could make a huge difference. If Sri Lanka had batted first and put a decent total on the board, their spinners might well have thrived on a pitch that took progressively more turn. And for different reasons the toss could once again be vital when the two teams step out on to the perfectly manicured turf of the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali for the second one-day international.

The dew factor

With temperatures dropping markedly after sunset, dew will play a big factor. The average daily high has been approaching 30 degrees, while the low has gone down to 14 degrees. This means there is sure to be a generous coating of dew by the time the second innings begins. This will make it extremely difficult for the spinners to grip the ball, and could also result in frequent ball changes, which means the fast bowlers have to adjust to spheres of varying hardness and age. Add to this the fact that the lights in Mohali are different from the ones conventionally used in cricket stadia and you have a sizeable challenge on your hands fielding second. The pylons that house the lights are much shorter than the regular ones since Mohali is close to an airforce base, and strict regulations govern the height of constructions. This makes it difficult to pick up the ball in the case of a high catch as it heads over the line of the lights before it descends.

The pitch

While there is a smattering of live grass on the pitch, this is unlikely to do anything other than give the strip a greenish tinge. Unlike in other venues, where the pitch is treated as an object protected under the National Secrets Act, in Mohali journalists were escorted to the pitch to have a look for themselves. Daljit Singh, the former Bihar wicketkeeper-batsman, and currently the curator at the venue, said, "The pitch we're using for this match is the centre-pitch of nine on the square. It's been used a fair bit this season and has held up well for 100 overs. We've been working on making the top surface solid and a touch dry so that it is hard and the bounce is true." He also confirmed that there was no likelihood of a dramatic change in the nature of the pitch from now to tomorrow.

The teams

India are unlikely to make any changes to the side that won in Nagpur, barring a last-minute injury. Although Murali Katik performed exceedingly well, he could well find himself out in the cold. With the pitch and dew conditions being what they are, a spinner in the second innings could be a bit of a lottery. With three medium-pacers already in the side, plus Jai Prakash Yadav, the Supersub's spot could go to a batsman - Suresh Raina, or even Gautam Gambhir. Sri Lanka have no real need to make any changes as their team has the flexibility to play in most conditions, thanks to the presence of players like Farveez Maharoof, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Chandana and Russel Arnold.

Happy hunting ground

India have played five one-dayers at this venue, and lost only once. Although Sri Lanka have never played against India here, they have played at this venue once and the memories are happy - they thrashed Pakistan by more than hundred runs, having raked up 300-plus batting first in May 1997. Of India's four wins, three came batting first, one against Bangladesh batting second, while the one loss came when they batted first against Pakistan in 1996. However, this must be viewed with the caveat that in the recently concluded Challenger Trophy, the teams batting second won on all four occasions.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo