Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo
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Daljit Singh, the curator at the PCA Stadium in Mohali, has promised a sporting pitch for Kings XI Punjab's IPL opener on Saturday and hopes the wearing surface - the Indian season is nearing its end - holds out for the duration of the competition.
"We tend to make Twenty20 pitches grossly in favour of the batsmen," Daljit told Cricinfo. "What we are trying to focus on here is an even contest. We need the bowlers to get good pace and good carry. If not, then the ball doesn't go through. I suppose in this format you want to see batsmen hit through the line. If a pitch is slow, a slogged six will carry about five or six yards over the ropes. If the pitch is fast, and a batsman connects well, that six can go 90 yards. Our job is to ensure there's enough in this for batsmen and bowlers, which is challenging given the short timeframe."
With the advent of the IPL, the emphasis has been on producing featherbed, comatose pitches that assist the smash-bang ways of the Twenty20 format. Mohali has a reputation of producing high scores in Twenty20, but also one of assisting batting in both innings. In the first IPL match held here in 2008, Chennai Super Kings scored 240 and beat Punjab by 33 runs. In the second match, Punjab posted 182 and kept Mumbai Indians to 116 with the wickets shared by the fast and slow bowlers. Punjab had no such difficulty chasing down a target of 159 against Delhi Daredevils, beat Kolkata Knight Riders after scoring 178, handed a nine-wicket win to Royal Challengers Bangalore, and finished the tournament with a 41-run win over Rajasthan Royals after putting up a huge 221 for 3.
The last Twenty20 played here, between India and Sri Lanka in December, had India chasing down 207 with six wickets in hand. "That was a high-scoring game, yes, but I don't think you will see such big scores this time around," Daljit said. "This is the end of the Indian domestic season and these are tired wickets. There is some grass on the surface but we've tried to brown if off. A green wicket is not ideal, but you need some grass. If you brown it down, that's better for Twenty20.
"Another difference here is the night temperature. Look at other IPL venues … in Chennai it is 23 degrees, in Mumbai 25, in Delhi about 16-17, but here in Mohali it's about eight degrees. The ball will be swinging in the air and the track will be hard and bouncy. I think the wickets would be shared by the fast bowlers and spinners."
Punjab are almost certainly without Brett Lee for the first match while there is some doubt about Irfan Pathan and VRV Singh's fitness. According to Daljit, Punjab's spinners will be key to lifting a "deflated" side in front of a boisterous home crowd. "Not much has gone right for Punjab so far," he said. "The fast bowling looks to be in a bit of a mess and there are some concerns over key strike bowlers. I think [Piyush] Chawla and [Ramesh] Powar will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility, and they should get some turn here."