Tamil Nadu v Rajasthan, Ranji Trophy final, Chennai January 17, 2012

Pitch takes centrestage in Ranji final

The Ranji Trophy final, starting Thursday, will be played on the same surface on which Tamil Nadu played two matches last month, which could make the track a little weary. The pitch had behaved differently in those matches so it is uncertain how it will play in the final.

In the Tamil Nadu-Madhya Pradesh contest during the group stage, out of the 30 wickets to fall, 21 were bagged by fast bowlers. But in the quarter-finals against Maharashtra, half of the 25 victims were taken by the slow bowlers (13). Both matches were drawn with Tamil Nadu earning points on the basis of first-innings lead.

The one important difference this time is there will be an extra day's play, which will enhance chances of a result. No less an authority than N Srinivasan, the BCCI president, told the curator at Chepauk to prepare a sporting pitch for the five-day final.

After the World Cup, the main square was re-laid completely and at least three tracks were covered with black clay instead of the original red clay. The black clay, it is learned, retains the moisture in the mornings but also helps open up the cracks in the surface in the afternoon heat, helping spinners.

But being newly-laid, the surface is yet to mature completely; and with two matches having already been played on the same pitch, there could be the danger of the surface getting weary after the first two days.

So, should we expect a pitch that will have good bounce, good pace, good carry, and let the spinners gain control later in the match? Opinion is divided to say the least.

Ask the men who matter, the players, and they are still waiting to figure out which of the eight tracks in the square will be used for the final. To further add to the intrigue, the curator cannot speak to the media ahead of the match.

WV Raman, former Tamil Nadu captain and coach, predicts the pitch will help spinners. "I can't see many tracks on the square wherein you will have a lot of bounce and carry which is going to last," Raman said on The Chatter, ESPNcricinfo's audio show previewing the Ranji final. "If at all that is going to happen, it will be on the opening day or probably till the second session of the second day. Otherwise, it is going to be low and slow and maybe go on to help the spinners later on."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo