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Will Sabina Park pitch break deadlock?

By Ashish Shukla
June 28, 2006 13:18 IST
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The Sabina Park pitch might not be an out and out fast bowlers' paradise anymore, but it would most certainly produce a result in the fourth and final cricket Test between India and the West Indies, said the chief curator at the venue.

"Barring the rain, this Test will produce a winner," said Charlie, who has tended the Sabina Park square for the past five decades.

"It could have something for the fast bowlers on the first day but overall, it shouldn't disappoint batsmen either.

"Batsmen who want to stick around will get the runs while the bowlers, who are prepared to bend their back will gain good purchase," said Charlie.

Overall, it might offer the faster bowlers bigger assistance than it did in two previous Tests but it is unlikely to make them appear twice the worth than they really are.

Having worked here for 49 years, the entire history of this venue - George Headley and Lawrence Rowe; Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh; the famous bloodbath of 1976 Test which made the then Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi wave the white flag of surrender - has happened in front of Charlie's eyes.

At first glance, the pitch for the fourth Test, starting at Sabina Park on Friday, doesn't seem to back his assertion.

It has been heavily watered, the smattering of grass, sodden, appears to have been rolled into the surface. But Charlie has no doubt that strong wind and sun over the next two days will produce the pitch he wants.

"Much of course depends on the conditions. I was deeply frustrated during my preparation for the one-dayers last month when it rained just before the game was to begin. I hope it's not the case this time," mused the frail man.

He said since it was a live grass rolled on to the surface, it would keep sprouting during the match.

Sabina Park is going through a metamorphosis these days. The beams and columns staring at you like an excavated site during the one-dayers are beginning to show a formation now.

The entire ground which was dug up when the sprinklers and drainage pipes were laid to ward off effects of rain two years ago, somehow didn't affect the famous square.

"The ground was dug so deep it could swallow an elephant. But the square wasn't touched. From the edges you could see the hard clay and baked surface but it wasn't touched," says Charlie like a custodian of a national monument.

It is not easy to say if the pitch is hard enough yet. Since it has been watered, the little key used to check the hardness of the pitch penetrates without much effort.

It could be a different case though once the moisture evaporates and sun beats down hard. It could then harden up to Charlie's liking.

Oldtimers at Sabina Park aver that this would be a good toss to lose.

Both sides, having drawn the first three Tests, if anything, will be more conservative in this Test match.

Defensive bowling and field sets could be the feature of this Test. Both would wait to see if the other one blinks first.

For the sake of series, one hopes for Charlie to somehow come good.

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Ashish Shukla
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