It was hard work for the Indian spinners against New Zealand in the drawn first Test at Kanpur’s Green Park Stadium. Despite their tireless efforts, the hosts were left one wicket short of victory. R Ashwin and his fellow spinners though will look forward to bowling at the Wankhede Stadium here, where the second Test starts on Friday.
The Mumbai pitch is known to offer extra bounce and such a surface should ideally suit the strengths of the Indian spin attack. Though the first Test ended in a thrilling draw, India’s bowlers were surprised by the unresponsive nature of the Kanpur pitch.
In Mumbai, the main threat for New Zealand will come from off-spinner Ashwin, who is more effective on surfaces offering bounce and his height will be to his advantage as well. It means the edges will carry and close-in catchers will come into play more.
Along with Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium, Wankhede is the ace spinner’s favourite hunting ground. The Tamil Nadu bowler, now the third highest Test wicket-taker for India with 419 scalps, has taken the same number of wickets at both venues (30 wickets each in four games). But he has a better average (21.93) and strike-rate (42.03) in Mumbai than at his home ground.
In the last Test at Wankhede, against England in 2016, on a good batting track India’s spinners took 19 of the 20 wickets for victory. India posted 631 runs in reply to England’s first innings 400. Ashwin had a match-haul of 12 wickets, six in each innings. He and Ravindra Jadeja shared the 10 wickets in the first innings with the left-arm spinner taking four.
The pitch is being prepared under the supervision of Ashish Bhowmick, head of BCCI’s panel of curators.
After the draw at Kanpur, India’s new coach Rahul Dravid expressed surprise that the pitch didn’t have the wear and tear expected on the fifth day. “It was low and slow and probably it didn’t have that much bounce or didn’t have turn. Probably, you expect a little bit more wear and tear on the fifth day in Indian conditions. This didn’t seem to have that kind of bite,” he said.
New Zealand’s last wicket pair of Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel batted out 8.4 overs to thwart the victory push of India.
“Generally, in India on day five, spinners can challenge both edges—inside and outside. You know you can beat people on the inside edge and get lbw. But honestly, in this game the outside edge was virtually ruled out,” Dravid said. “Even till the last day, none of the edges carried, very few catches close to the bat, I can’t remember, (substitute wicket-keeper KS) Bharat took a couple.”