'I've been sort of censored...' - Lara
"I'd love to come here and see green and pick from any four pitches out there ... We'd like to turn up one day and see something totally in our favour." The totally bemused look on Brian Lara's face when he saw the pitch at Warner Park told a story. He can complain, he can plead, he can spell out the exact nature of the surface he wants but, apparently, nobody seems to be listening. Added to that, he can't seem to get the team he wants. It can't be easy being Brian Lara at this point.
Andy Atkinson, the roly-poly English groundsman called in specifically to prepare this pitch, showed early signs of veering towards Lara. Until yesterday, there was a generous smattering of green on the track and Atkinson had said that he would only trim it. As it transpired, he appears to have gone ahead with the crew cut. Only a sprinkling remained on match-eve and the bounce, on a hard track, may be the fast bowlers' main ally.
It's a curious state of affairs, and Lara may be thinking about how to confront such home disadvantage. And as if that were not enough, he has further problems, one relating to the composition of his side.
Here is what the West Indies captain had to say in detail:
First of all India has been accused by their press for not taking 20 wickets and I think we have the same problem. We seem to be putting ourselves under pressure when India get off to big totals. In the third innings of the Antigua match, they got 500-plus and of course in St Lucia they did, and of course they'd put any batting team under pressure after that. But we were able to hold out. You can expect the guys to perform better in this game. Our backs are against the wall and I wouldn't say we got away. I thought we showed a lot of character and if the tables can turn in our favour, things can get beneficial for us.
On team selection
I've been sort of censored, told to curb my comments. It's a situation when me and the selectors aren't singing from the same hymn sheet and that's unfortunate. I suppose we've got to play with what we've got and it's a situation where an out-and-out fast bowler was not selected for the Test. Unfortunately a genuine spinner was also left out. We have to make do with what we have and try as much as possible to get a game out there.
On using a specialist spinner
If you got a spinner that's doing very well in our regional tournament, they should be encouraged because it adds variety to the attack. Dave Mohammed got close to 50 wickets, we've seen Omari Banks do well with both bat and ball. These guys should be included because any good combination would include a spinner. I'm not going to pay too much mind to the fact that they're not top-class spinners. Many spinners start their careers very low key and have moved on to become very good spinners. So I'm still very optimistic about the situation.
On the players' association threatening industrial action
I've not been given the job of spokesperson in that matter. That's strictly between the West Indies Players Association and West Indies Cricket Board. I think they're more fit to give an exact opinion about it. As far as I am concerned, there's a Test match charted for 22nd of June, that's tomorrow, and that is what we're preparing ourselves for.
On the pitch
It is a bit harder, still much grass. I think it's a very good batting pitch, probably even better than St Lucia with the ball coming on to the bat. I don't see much sideways movement on the pitch, but again both teams have got to play on it and we hope to be the better team at the end of the game. Seems to be a tougher pitch than St Lucia, and not as much grass as Antigua. Not any great trouble for the batters and I think the bowlers will have to work as much as the last two matches. [Greg] Chappell said that India thought they they could put a lot of runs on the board and put us under pressure. Something that maybe we can look at - bat first, get a big total; bat second, get a big lead. It's a good pitch. A great stadium - came here something like 17 years ago. Very special, great improvement.
On Harbhajan Singh
He's definitely a top-class spinner, his record shows that. If he'd played in Antigua, on the last day, or even St Lucia he would definitely have been a handful compared to [Virender] Sehwag. It's fortunate for us that it didn't happen. Again, whichever XI they put out in the middle, I think our guys are capable of firstly overhauling them and then playing better cricket than them. We expected Harbhajan to be playing in the first Test so it will not be a surprise if he comes in tomorrow. We won't be panicking, we've played against him in the past. If he's included we might see a more potent Indian attack, but again it's left upto them.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo