Dhoni spins pitch predictions

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India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni kept the mixed messages coming on the state of the Kolkata wicket for the third Test against England.

Thousands of inconclusive words have been written and spoken over the past week about the conditions to be expected when play at last begins tomorrow with the series level at 1-1.

It is hard to escape the likely conclusion that a slow turner - closer to Ahmedabad, where England lost the first Test, than Mumbai, where they won the second - will be presented at Eden Gardens.

If it was Dhoni’s intention to confuse the opposition, however, he could hardly have chosen much more effective language than at his pre-match press conference.

“The wicket looks good. I don’t think there will be much help for the spinners initially,” said Dhoni.

“The fast bowlers get a bit of swing at this time of year, both at start of play and then close to stumps. So I think the role of fast bowlers will be very crucial in this game.”

Dhoni’s thesis is that home advantage is a fundamental part of international cricket and one that should be fostered rather than mistrusted because it creates one of his sport’s great challenges and fascinations.

“When you come to India you want to play on turning tracks, irrespective of the result,” said the wicketkeeper-batsman.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni today said: “The wicket looks good. I don’t think there will be much help for the spinners initially.”

“We lost the last game, but still we want to play on wickets that suit the sub-continent - what the sub-continental challenge is all about.

“If you’re not really doing that then that concept of playing around the world, and facing different challenges, goes down the drain.

“If you come to India, why do you want to play on wickets that are flat for the first three or four days? And sometimes even five days is not enough to get a result.

“I feel the challenge is to play on tracks that turn, and assist the spinners.”

England could perhaps boast that they beat India at their own game on a spinners’ pitch in Mumbai last week, but Dhoni added: “It doesn’t matter if we lose a few games, or if we win the series ...

“The crucial thing is that a cricketer who has played five or six years can say ‘I went to the sub-continent and the wickets were turning and bouncing and I scored runs or I failed’.

“We should still stick to turning tracks because that’s what our strength is. That’s what home advantage means.

“It doesn’t mean that when Australia play in Australia and England play in England they win all the games - but they still stick to the speciality they have.

“It’s the same for the sub-continental teams. Whatever the result, we’ll stick to the kind of wicket that is our speciality.”

To that end, India can be expected - despite Dhoni’s initial contention that pace will play a big part - to major on spin again.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh missed net practice because of flu today, and Yuvraj Singh took a blow in the nets. But the indications from the home camp were that both should be fit for selection.

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