India v Pakistan, 1st Test, Lahore January 12, 2006

A distinctly sub-continental wicket



If the wicket on view is anything to go by, Anil Kumble may be giving it a rip early on © Getty Images

Looking at the Gadaffi Stadium on the eve of the first Test, bathed in sunshine with a glossy pitch at the centre, all pre-series predictions ran the risk of being thrown out of the window. Unlike the tour game, where the Indians had to endure abnormally chilly conditions, the Test may be played in far more familiar terrain. The last two days have been pleasantly warm, with a mild breeze ensuring against any discomfort, and the bright sunshine, since around 8am this morning, eliminated any threat of fog.

The pitch - that perennial epicenter of discussion - was distinctly sub-continental. A bone dry surface with prominent vertical cracks and one wondered what all the fuss was about. Inzamam-ul-Haq termed it "a sporting wicket", adding that it should offer help to both the fast and slow men; Rahul Dravid stressed on the cracks on the surface, hinting that spin might be key; Greg Chappell stuck his neck out to say that he thought the pitch would support the spinners from the third day itself; while Bob Woolmer spoke about the moisture beneath the surface, that may cause the ball to grip and turn.

"We saw the groundsman watering and rolling the pitch this morning," Dravid said while speaking at the pre-match press conference, adding that the toss wouldn't play a major role. "It may change a bit tomorrow. The ball may come on to the bat and it should help both the fast bowlers and the spinners. We have the combination to play in any conditions. It doesn't look like a wicket that will crumble. There are a few cracks on the pitch, it's interesting."

Chappell echoed his views and added, "They're working on it but it looks like a wicket with some bounce," he said. "It's tough to assess a pitch 24 hours before a game. But I think it might turn, maybe from the third day."

Within a couple of days, the freezing conditions at the Bagh-e-Jinnah appeared a world away and normalcy appears to have been restored in India-Pakistan cricket.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo