Two days ahead of the second Test between India and Sri Lanka in Kanpur, the Green Park pitch was green. "They should leave the grass," umpire Nigel Llong said with a wide smile, after inspecting the surface which had an even, inch-long cover of grass.
Llong was only joking of course and, by Monday, the grass would have been finely trimmed. But Shiv Kumar, the curator at Green Park, assured that the pitch would not attract unfavourable attention, like the dustbowl against South Africa in 2008, or the slow and dreary one used in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad last week. "It will be a friendly pitch, for both batsmen and bowlers," he said.
In 2008 as well, Kanpur hosted the third Test after Ahmedabad held the second against South Africa. And after India were thrashed by an innings and 90 runs, instructions were given to the Green Park curator to prepare a pitch that would facilitate an Indian victory. The watering was stopped three days prior to the Test, the ball turned sharply and the bounce was variable from day one, and India won by eight wickets inside three days. The pitch was so sub-standard that the ICC wrote to the BCCI seeking an explanation.
"It would not be a dry wicket like last time," Kumar said. He was confident this pitch, a fresh one on which a lot of domestic cricket is played, would last the distance. "Instructions have been given to us for the Test to last all five days," an Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association source said. Last year's controversial track, which lies to the left of the current pitch, was relaid six months ago and is now a blackboard-coloured surface which will take at least a year to be fit for play.
The last international game played on the current Green Park pitch was the 1996-97 Test against South Africa, when Mohammad Azharuddin' unbeaten 163 in the second innings set up India's victory. But plenty of first-class and age-group cricket has been played on the pitch and records suggest it has a lot of runs. "The pitch has been fine tuned a lot. It would be a batting pitch but the bowlers will have an even hand from the third day," Kumar said.
Daljit Singh, the head of the BCCI curators' committee, predicted that the second Test would probably have a result. "It should be a good wicket to bat on and for a two-two [two fast bowlers, two spinners] combination", Daljit, who had come to Kanpur to inspect the pitch a couple of days ago, said.
Meanwhile, both teams had complete training sessions on Sunday. Zaheer Khan was the only Indian missing from the nets because he opted to relax. The team management confirmed Zaheer was fine and was only resting. Neither team had injury worries and were likely to decide their final XIs only on the morning of the day of the match.