After the Ranji Trophy semi-final between Baroda and Karnataka ended in one-and-a-half days on a sharp turner, the track for the final has expectedly attracted attention from various quarters. The BCCI even sent its curator Sudhir Naik to inspect the surface at the Moti Bagh Stadium in Vadodara, the venue for Tuesday's final between Baroda and Rajasthan.
Naik's visit followed Karnataka's complaint to the match referee about the dry pitch at the Reliance Stadium in Vadodara, where thirty-three wickets tumbled before tea on the second day of the semi-final, resulting in a shock exit for the visitors. But Naik allayed all concerns, saying the Moti Bagh track was a good wicket. "It is the right choice for the final, and will assist both the pacers as well as spinners," he told the Times of India.
The captains of both the teams in the final agreed with Naik's assessment. "I think there should be some help there for the seamers," Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the Rajasthan captain, said. "It looks a fine surface, but in a five-day game the pitch can change its nature as the game goes on." The Baroda captain Pinal Shah said the wicket would take some turn as the game progressed.
Both captains would hope their reading of the pitch turns out to be correct, as their bowling attacks will be accordingly calibrated. Rajasthan are banking on their seam trio of Pankaj Singh, Deepak Chahar and Sumit Mathur, while Baroda could go in with two specialist spinners in Bhargav Bhatt and Aditya Waghmode, as well as Swapnil Singh, a batting allrounder who bowls left-arm spin.
The wicket is devoid of grass and looks good for batting. "It is a typical red soil wicket. It should break up a bit and turn from the third day onwards," Aakash Chopra, the Rajasthan opener, said. Amit Asawa, the Rajasthan coach, said he did not see the game lasting beyond four days.
Swing is usually a major factor at Moti Bagh, a stadium that has no stands and lies in the sprawling Lakshmi Vilas Palace complex amid scores of trees. The wind blows vigorously at the ground, and the ball nips around in the morning session. "The first session is always the key at Moti Bagh," Pinal said. However, if one can survive till lunch, the lush outfield and true bounce provides good value for shots.
"It does not seam much here, but another thing you have to take into account is the amount of dew," Mukesh Narula, the Baroda coach, said. "For the last week or so, there has not been much dew here, and there was none at the Reliance Stadium. But it's winter now and if the dew comes, it will definitely have an impact." There are a lot of variables for the teams to ponder over, but given how the wicket looks, another finish inside two days is unlikely.