The windowless shed behind the sightscreen at Chepauk is a happy place. Hours after India won the first Test against Australia by eight wickets, a noisy group of ground staff is playing cards, surrounded by lawn mowers and other gardening equipment. The man in charge, curator K Parthasarathy, sits on a chair contentedly. The upbeat mood and the sense of accomplishment are because of a job well done. Actually it is more than that.
The 60-year-old, who has been preparing pitches at the M A Chidambaram Stadium for about four decades, and his team have achieved the impossible. In a game where Indian spinners have taken 20 wickets, the pitch has held its own. The expected chorus of criticism from the visiting team, a ritual for ages, is missing this time.
Parthasarathy reveals the secret behind the elusive turning track that Indian skipper M S Dhoni had been wanting all through the England series. “We started by making the entire pitch firm. After that we watered it selectively. The areas on either side of the stumps were kept dry, and so turned out to be loose. The line of the stumps was watered and rolled, so it stayed firm through the Test,” he says.
This resulted in the pitch being true where the pacers pitched the ball, and abrasive in the areas where the spinners operated.
So the Aussie pacers concentrating on the line of the stumps, hoping that the wear and tear would give them uneven bounce and thus lbw or bowled decisions, failed. The spinners from both the teams enjoyed the natural variation that the rough spots on the loose soil provided.
“If I had kept the entire pitch dry, people would have called it under-prepared. But now nobody is complaining,” says Parthasarathy.
And that is true. During the last few days, the Australian players were asked several leading questions at the press conferences about the Chepauk pitch. But they didn’t bite the bait.
Australian all-rounder Moses Henriques said he enjoyed the challenge of playing in the sub-continent and it was the footmarks on the loose soil that were responsible for the uneven bounce.