Gahunje pitch, Sal­gaonkar back in fo­cus


The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport - Ravichan­dran Ash­win Amit.Kar­[email protected] times­

Visakhapat­nam: Hav­ing played for the first time for In­dia in nearly a year, has spo­ken of how he strug­gled to cope with days when he was not part of the team. In an in­ter­view with field­ing coach R Srid­har that was put up on the BCCI’s web­site, Ash­win said, “Ob­vi­ously these things hap­pen over a pe­riod of time and you can’t plan these things. I have been very lucky in terms of where I have got in my ca­reer in terms of rac­ing up with all these records.

“It’s im­por­tant to stick to the process ev­ery sin­gle day, try and stick to the ba­sics, keep it as sim­ple as pos­si­ble be­cause that’s what makes it eas­ier for you ev­ery­time you get in the next game,” he said.

“When it comes to my skill, I want to be as pre­pared as pos­si­ble and try and tick all the boxes be­fore a game. Try and be in the best pos­si­ble men­tal and phys­i­cal space.” Pune: For­mer Ma­ha­rash­tra speed­ster Pan­durang Sal­gaonkar will get a chance to re­deem him­self when the Gahunje sta­dium hosts a Test match be­tween In­dia and South Africa from Thurs­day. A lot has hap­pened in Sal­gaonkar’s life in the last two and a half years.

The 69-year-old, who looks af­ter the pitch and ground prepa­ra­tion at the in­ter­na­tional fa­cil­ity at MCA, faced heavy crit­i­cism af­ter the Test be­tween In­dia and Aus­tralia in Feb 2017 lasted only three days, with spin­ners tak­ing 31 wick­ets be­tween them. Be­ing the first ever Test in Pune made it worse. The ICC had rated the wicket as ‘poor’.

The MCA didn’t take any chances for the IPL matches the same year, rop­ing in for­mer Ma­ha­rash­tra cap­tain and na­tional se­lec­tor Suren­dra Bhave to as­sist Sal­gaonkar for the April-May tour­na­ment. Sal­gaonkar, un­for­tu­nately, was then caught in a st­ing op­er­a­tion re­lated to pitch fix­ing just be­fore the In­dia-New Zealand ODI on the same ground four months later. Though the ef­forts to dis­turb the ODI be­yond re­pair weren’t suc­cess­ful, Sal­gaonkar was sus­pended by In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil (ICC) for six months for fail­ing to re­port the in­ci­dent to the anti-cor­rup­tion au­thor­i­ties.

Though MCA re­called Sal­gaonkar for the job as soon as his sus­pen­sion pe­riod ended, there was an at­tached stigma. “As far as I know, only I’m look­ing af­ter the Gahunje wicket for the South Africa Test,” said Sal­gaonkar,

Lon­don: look­ing fit and com­posed. “I won’t be talk­ing to the me­dia about the pitch or any­thing be­fore or dur­ing the Test match,” he told TOI on Mon­day. “Ev­ery­thing is per­fect at the ground. There are no prob­lems what­so­ever due to rains.” The Gahunje sta­dium, which has a sand-based out­field, has got a good drainage fa­cil­ity. Sal­gaonkar had de­fended him­self about the Test match wicket against Aus­tralia by say­ing that the team man­age­ment and the BCCI cu­ra­tor tried to change the na­ture of the pitch at the very last mo­ment and that led to the com­pli­ca­tions. That’s not the case now.

If spin­ners called the shots two years ago on this pitch, it could be the turn of fast bowlers now. In­ter­mit­tent rain, cool breeze and mois­ture is ex­pected to give some en­cour­age­ment to the pac­ers. The bat­ters will en­joy their stay at the crease on Day 2 and Day 3 only if the sun is out and the bounce is con­ducive for stroke­play.

How­ever, the pitch at Gahunje has been un­pre­dictable in its short his­tory. It has been man­aged by Sal­gaonkar from the be­gin­ning, in­clud­ing the first IPL in Pune in 2012.

SUR­VIV­ING TOUGH TIMES: Pune pitch cu­ra­tor Pan­durang Sal­gaonkar

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