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India vs South Africa: Two years from poor rating, where does the Pune pitch stand now?

In the only Test match played in Pune, India lost to Australia by 333 runs as Steve O'Keefe bagged 12/70 in the game.

India TV Sports Desk India TV Sports Desk
New Delhi Updated on: October 09, 2019 10:05 IST
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The Pune pitch from the 2017 Test between India and Australia

After a gap of over two years, Test cricket is back in Pune and all eyes will be on the pitch, which received heavy criticism and a warning from the International Cricket Council (ICC) for being inept for Test cricket last time around. 

The last time India got on to play at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in 2017, Australia rolled them over by 333 runs on a turning track as Steve O'Keefe bagged six-fors in both the innings.  

The match also saw a classic Steve Smith innings, when he scored 109 in the second innings against all odds while the highest an Indian got was 64 (KL Rahul). 

A heavy-hitting Indian line-up was bowled out for 105 and 107 respectively as the Aussies spinners picked up 17 of the 20 wickets among themselves.

But, things are expected to be different this time around. It has been a flat track for a while now and is third in the list of most runs registered in domestic cricket on a ground.

There has been continued rain in Pune for a week now and that has definitely hampered the preparations for the game. Tuesday was a dry and oppressive afternoon and when the covers were off, it was difficult to distinguish the surface the playing area around it but curators were quick to chop the grass off.

"We don't ask for the kind of wickets that we get. To us, to be a good No. 1 team in the world, any conditions that come your way, you've got to accept and say these are home conditions. Even when we go abroad, we hardly take a look at the wicket. Yes, in the last minute we tend to assess the wicket by looking at it, but we say that we are going to look at this as home conditions, and the wicket is the same for both the teams, so we are going to work on our bowling, rather than looking at the wickets," Bharat Arun said in the pre-match press conference regarding the pitch.

However, one thing is for certain that the pitch is not going to be as dry as the 2017 Test. Given the rain around, it is expected to be damp and moist and remains to be seen how much grass survives.

Chief curator Pandurang Salgaoncar remained unavailable for comment after what had happened last time despite everyone wanting a piece of him. Following the poor rating last time around a sting operation following the Test which led to a six-month suspension from both his home association and the ICC, life hasn't been easy and a good pitch for the second Test could salvage some of the lost pride.

For now, it remains a mystery as to how will it behave thanks to the excessive rain, which has forced the pitch to be under wraps for most of the time. But, other than early swing and seam, one thing is certain -- it is not going to be as rank turner as it was in February 2017.

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