Team India in Pink of health
Ahmedabad: Like finishing touches given at the last minute before a big, fat, wedding, the Motera awaits its date with the Pink Ball Test as India and England resume their rivalry under arc-lights from Wednesday.
A year ago, this was the venue that hosted the jam-packed "Namaste Trump" show where the ousted United States of America President came for a quick visit. There is no comparing a cricket match with that event, though what stands out is the marvellous arena in this huge city. This is the world's largest cricket stadium in the world, with a capacity of 1,10,000. It is larger than the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG, 100,000) and much more modern than Kolkata's Eden Gardens which can host around 90,000.
What makes this venue special is the ambiance. It is a 360 degree stadium, which means from any position seated inside, you can catch all the action without any pillars in between. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, only 55,000 spectators will be allowed inside from Wednesday. The Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium at the Motera will be officially inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind before the toss.
The buzz outside the Motera was palpable. Last-minute seekers were desperate to get tickets and for the VIPs, this will be a bonanza over the next five days. For a city that has seen plenty of cricket action before, the glorious uncertainties of Pink Ball cricket will come to the fore for the first time.
There are uncertainties and the mind games began long ago. India are supposed to be the underdogs in Pink Ball cricket, where the play will resume at 2.30 pm daily. The behaviour of the ball is supposed to aid swing and lateral movement for the fast bowlers, but one does not know what will happen really as the final look of the pitch remains a suspense. The giant green has space for 11 pitches to be prepared. As the same venue will host the fourth Test also, in the Bio Bubble, the curator has a lot of hard work to do. It is supposed to be black soil. Spin or pace, what is the combination India would want to plump for remains to be seen.
Having won the second Test in Chennai by a whopping 317 run margin, India are ahead, mentally. The Englishmen have been speaking about movement for the fast bowlers and how their speed merchants will be effective. Who they pick remains to be seen, though James Anderson was devastating in the first Test. If Jofra Archer returns, he will be red hot and Stuart Broad will also come in handy.
With Moeen Ali flying back, it remains to be seen what options England try.
For India, Ishant Sharma will be the centre of attention as he is playing his 100th Test match, which is a huge achievement for a fast bowler in terms of longevity. The rest of the pace battery could include Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav. So, will spin or pace be the recipe for India will be deciphered on Wednesday.