MUMBAI: The fact that the entire league stage of IPL 2022, the biggest so far with 70 matches and two new teams, will be played at just four venues in Maharashtra raises a genuine concern: will the pitches hold up for that long?
The unprecedented load on all the four venues – the Wankhede Stadium (20 matches), DY Patil Stadium (20 matches), the Brabourne Stadium at CCI and the MCA international Stadium (15 matches each) over the next month-and-a-half means that all eyes will be on the pitches in a tournament which has normally been played on a home and away basis.
“Each venue has five pitches. This will ensure that the pitches are rotated,” Nadim Memon, the ground in-charge at all the three IPL venues in Mumbai and also a member of Mumbai Cricket Association’s apex council, told TOI.
“This means that a pitch will get a week’s ‘rest’ after the game, and there’ll be enough time to give it water and roll it for the next match. The other thing is that in T20s, the wear and tear on the wicket is far less compared to other formats. The seamers bowl a maximum of 12 overs, so there’s not much damage on the surface due to footmarks,” said former India opener and ex-Wankhede curator Sudhir Naik.
The other concern is whether there will be a repeat of what happened in the second half of the IPL and then the T20 World Cup in the UAE, when the dew factor enabled teams to chase down totals easily.
“The dew factor in Mumbai isn’t as big as it is in UAE or north India. The dew only kicks in post 9. 30 pm here, and it can be taken care of by the super sopper. The second thing is that the clay on the UAE wickets is imported from Pakistan, which means that the bounce isn’t great, neither does the ball turn much.
“If you see the wickets in the current Australia-Pakistan series, they’re as flat as they are in the UAE. However, the wickets in Mumbai and Pune will offer exciting cricket. All the grounds are in good shape. We staged 10 IPL matches last year without any hitches. We’ll stage it successfully this time too,” said Memon.
Former India batsman Jatin Paranjape said that since these pitches have hardly been used due to the Covid situation, they will be fresh. “I don’t think that the wickets will be as flat as we’re used to seeing them in the first half of the tournament, as they have hardly been used in the past two years. They will be some zip in them. The wickets at Wankhede and CCI have traditionally helped the fast bowlers. So, bowlers will have something to play with,” he said.
Naik agreed, saying, “The red soil encourages good bounce. That means pacers can capitalize and batsmen can play shots. ” However, with the wickets tiring out slowly, spin is expected to become a major weapon later on, said Paranjape.
“Toss will be crucial in the second half as the ball will grip the red soil. I would be tempted to bat first then because it might turn in the second half of the game,” he said.