Former India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the center of attention ahead of the first T20I between India and Sri Lanka to be played at the Barabati Stadium on Wednesday. The pitch has been untested for about a year which is enough to generate a lot of curiosity on how it is going to play. Dhoni didn't waste any time to have a look at the 22 yards as he headed straight to the pitch after dropping his kit bag and examined it minutely from both ends.
Moments earlier Rohit Sharma, who is standing in as captain in the absence of Virat Kohli, and coach Ravi Shastri had a close look at the pitch by removing the light green cover, which was in place to protect it from excessive drying.
In the only T20I played here on October 5, 2015 India collapsed for 92 to lose to South Africa.
But in an ODI exactly 11 months ago, India and England aggregated more than 700 runs, with Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh's centuries helping the team to a narrow win after it notched up a mammoth 381 for six.
The pitch hasn't witnessed competitive cricket since then and to make matters worse, some football matches were played in the multipurpose stadium.
A fews days ago, students from a club were made to use the pitch as a test event. According to an official, it was a two-paced wicket that aided bounce from one end.
He said, "Every effort is being made to produce a sporting wicket where at least 180 runs are scored." He further said there would not be much dew to worry about.
Dhoni had the first feel of the surface. He had a brief net session and called a left-arm spinner to bowl at his pads. The World Cup winning former captain was the cynosure of India's two-hour training session as a crowd of about five-thousand turned up chanting 'Dhoni Dhoni'.
The Odisha Cricket Association had allowed free entry to some of the galleries opposite India's practice nets. The response was overwhelming as the galleries were all packed. Having bagged the Tests series 1-0, India suffered a defeat in the first ODI before producing a 2-1 result. The second and third T20Is are slated to be held in Indore (December 20) and Mumbai (December 24).
(With PTI Inputs)