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Host association promises 'neutral' pitch amid expectations of early turn

Virat Kohli was displeased by the amount of grass on the pitch for the first Test in Rajkot Associated Press

The Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) has promised a "neutral pitch" for Visakhapatnam's Test debut a day after K Sriram, the BCCI curator who has been overseeing the pitch preparation at the venue, was quoted by PTI as saying it would turn from lunch on the second day. Sriram's comments came a day after Virat Kohli had expressed displeasure at the amount of grass on the pitch for the first Test in Rajkot, which ended with India having to fight out a draw.

G Gangaraju, the ACA secretary, said there was no request from the Indian team management for a rank turner. "They didn't ask for anything," he told ESPNcricinfo. "We [also] don't entertain anything like that. It's a neutral pitch for both the teams. Both the teams have seen the pitch, and they are very happy. Both the curators - the board curator Mr K Sriram and our ACA curator Mr K Nagamallaiah - have done a very good job." Ashish Bhowmick, the BCCI curator from the East Zone, is also at the venue to oversee preparations.

India coach Anil Kumble, though, said at a press conference before the team's training session that he hadn't seen the pitch yet. "Whatever pitch we get, we will make our strategy around it and select a team accordingly," he said. "We play to take 20 wickets and win the match."

The pitch in Visakhapatnam has been under scrutiny lately after 17 wickets fell on the third day of a Ranji Trophy game between Assam and Rajasthan last month. After Assam were bowled out for 69 inside 21 overs, their coach Sunil Joshi took to Twitter to slam the "unpredictable" pitch. Gangaraju, though, played down the controversy, and said the pitch to be used for the Test was different to the ones that staged the Ranji Trophy game, and the fifth ODI between India and New Zealand, where the visitors slumped to 79 all out chasing 270. The pitch used for the ODI was slow, batsmen struggled to time their strokes, and there was appreciable turn for the spinners, with Amit Mishra picking up 5 for 18 in six overs.

An ACA official, who is closely involved in the preparation of the pitch, said the bounce was likely to remain consistent throughout the Test.

"The pitch has very less grass. It won't be to the same extent as in Rajkot, where there was not much turn even on the fourth day," he said. "There was some uneven bounce on the fourth [third] day of the Assam-Rajasthan game, but here I think the bounce will remain consistent all the way. It is something we have worked a lot on."

He said conditions in Visakhapatnam wouldn't allow for the ball to turn right from the first day as had been the case in some of the Tests against South Africa last year, but would remain good for batting for the most part.

"The pitch is a mixture of 50% black soil and 50% clay," the official said. "The cracks won't open up here too much; the clay is different [to pitches seen against South Africa], and the climatic conditions are different."