The chief curator at the Galle International Stadium, Jayananda Warnaweera, has ruled out producing a turning pitch for the first Test as a farewell gift to Muttiah Muralitharan, who needs eight wickets in his last Test to reach 800 wickets. Warnaweera, the former Sri Lanka offspinner, was confident Murali wouldn't need much assistance from the conditions to reach the landmark.
"If we compare the last India Test with this, we have a good wicket," said Warnaweera. "You will ask why we are not giving Murali a turning track. But Murali doesn't need a turning track. On any wicket, any flat wicket, Murali will take wickets. We were more concerned about number of days of cricket. We want all five days to say cheerio to Murali."
Warnaweera said Murali's favourable history at the venue should help his cause. "Murali has played 11 to 12 Tests in Galle, and he has nearly 110 wickets (sic. 103 wickets in 14 Tests)," he said. "That means his average is more than nine wickets a match. He needs eight wickets only. We want to have good time with Murali, so we need all five days of cricket.
"There is a little bit of grass left to hold the pitch together. Any wicket will turn on the fourth, fifth day, and this should go to a fifth day. It's up to the players, though."
India, meanwhile, didn't have the best of days as they prepared for the Test that begins on Sunday. Overnight rain had left the practice pitches wet, and the batsmen could have a hit only in the indoor facility. The Sri Lankans enjoyed a full practice session, though, as the pitches had dried up suitably by the time they arrived.
Harbhajan Singh, recovering from a fever, didn't bowl in the nets, but indications are that he is on track to make it for the Test. In his last Test in Galle, Harbhajan took 6 for 102 and 4 for 51 to set up India's series-levelling victory. He is now the most experienced bowler in an Indian squad depleted by the absence of Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo