IT has been a weird build-up to Mumbai’s first Test match in five years. Unseasonal rain has not allowed any practice for New Zealand, while India have been restricted to an indoor session at the suburban Bandra-Kurla Complex. Usually hot and humid Mumbai has done as good an impersonation of Wellington or Auckland on a cool grey day as it perhaps can.
The pitch has mostly remained under sheets followed by two layers of covers. They were unpeeled last afternoon to reveal a surface that appeared to be devoid of grass. It was understandably strewn with dark patches suggesting some moisture had seeped in, and the groundstaff were seen trying to dry the good-length area. The fuller-length area seems to have been given a firm dusting earlier, and bore a barer look compared to the rest of the pitch.
These signs signal assistance for spin, but the overhead conditions have complicated matters.
The first couple of days of the game are forecast to be cloudy before Mumbai reverts to humidity under the sun. Plus, you normally get good bounce at Wankhede, so the teams, especially New Zealand, could play a third fast bowler. “It looks like a typical Wankhede wicket,” Virat Kohli said. “We expect it to have some nice bounce. There’s value for all kinds of bowlers at the Wankhede and when you bat well, you can get runs as well. So I think it’s a great wicket for good cricket, and all skillsets are in the play all the time.”
We could be in for a bit of a delayed start though. Only the square was covered and the outfield has taken a fair battering over the past two days. Even with two Supersoppers in sight, and assuming no overnight rain, the groundstaff have a lot of work to do in Mumbai.