New Delhi:Delhiite Virender Sehwag should know about Feroz Shah Kotla more than anyone else in contemporary cricket. The stand-in captain's remark after clinching the five-match series against Sri Lanka 3-1, winning the fourth match at the Eden Gardens, was telling.
"We wanted to finish off the series here as I am uncertain about the nature of the Kotla pitch. We were keen on winning here on a good wicket since we don't know what kind of wicket we will get in Delhi," said Sehwag Thursday, after the match on the eve of Christmas.
Sehwag's words proved prophetic, though even he would not have expected the turn of events at the Kotla Sunday.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not sure either of the pitch quality Saturday when he said that the wicket was "unpredictable". Sri Lankan skipper Kumar Sangakkara refused to take a call on the wicket.
The track had been relaid more than once and it came in for criticism during the India-Australia One-dayer in October and before that during the Twenty20 Champions League. That time the pitch was considered to be on the slower side, not conducive for stroke making.
"The atrocious conditions at Feroz Shah Kotla are inhibiting general strokeplay and top batsmen have struggled to get past the half-century mark, and those who do, rely on their skilled technique developed at first-class and not top levels such as this," noted cricket writer Trevor Chesterfield.
"Is this what the Indian board wants? After all Kotla is to host a limited overs game against Sri Lanka in late December and possibly a Test against South Africa in March and producing a poor quality surface as this is dangerous as it gives the venue the reputation of producing sub-standard pitches. It's like being involved in a tricky game of Russian roulette," the New Zealand-born Colombo-based cricket writer had said.
And after drawing much flak, the pitch was given a facelift adding a layer of grass over it for Sunday's game and it was a disaster.
Batting great Sunil Gavaskar, in his pitch report Sunday called the track a "hair transplant pitch".
"I am not sure about it. It's a hair transplant pitch with bald patches and some patches of grass." he said.
And within the first half an hour of play, the worst fears about the pitch came true.