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True nature of Abu Dhabi surface obliges India

Last updated on 04 Nov 2021 | 03:00 AM
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True nature of Abu Dhabi surface obliges India

India will play their remaining games of the T20 World Cup 2021 in toss-dependent Dubai, where they have already succumbed to two defeats

On Wednesday (November 3) evening an Indian national cricket team played an international match at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi after a gap of 15 long years. Incidentally, India were one of two teams (along with Pakistan) to feature in the first-ever international match at this picturesque venue way back in April 2006. It was a two-match ODI series back then and thereafter this fixture against Afghanistan was their first assignment in national colours here.  

Well, India's return to the capital city of the United Arab Emirates yielded with immediate fortune change for the 'Men in Blue' as they finally won their first game in this edition of the ICC T20 World Cup to keep their slim hope of a semi-final berth alive.

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It was the trueness of the surface which helped the out-of-form Indian batting to get into the groove. Unlike Dubai, here the pitch remained unchanged throughout the 40 overs. The turf seemed identical to the one in which Mumbai Indians scored 239/9 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in one of the league games of the UAE-leg of IPL this year. 

Though, there have been low-scoring matches too at this venue — both in the IPL as well as during this T20 World Cup — thankfully for the Indian team, who were desperately seeking some momentum coming into this must-win encounter, the wicket suited their style of play. 

Losing the toss and batting first also turned out to be a blessing in disguise. KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma came out with positive intent and hit four boundaries in the first two overs of spin whereas the entire batting line-up managed to fetch only three fours in 16 overs of spin bowling in the previous two games in Dubai. 

Nothing was happening off the surface — neither for the spinners nor for the pacers. The ball was coming onto the bat nicely and the Indian batters continued to hit through the line. We haven't seen many of these tracks in this tournament thus far.

The flexibility in India’s gameplan also helped. Following that massive 140-run Rohit-Rahul opening stand power-hitters like Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya got promotion in the batting order. It was on the cards but most importantly for the team, the move worked as both of them provided the required finishing touch with 200-plus individual strike-rates (207.69 and 269.23 for Pant and Pandya respectively) as India posted the highest team total in the competition so far.

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There was a little bit of dew when India bowled but it was not alarming as R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had pretty decent outings with the ball against batters who are good hitters of slow bowling. And of course, when you post a mammoth 211/2 on the board, as a team you can take the dew factor out of the equation, as acknowledged by Rohit in the post-match presser.

“When you post a total like that, you can take the pitch, the conditions, the dew factor out of the play,” the Indian vice-captain mentioned.

“The pitch was pretty much what we played in IPL. Honestly, the pitch here [in Abu Dhabi] doesn't change too much [in the second innings]. Just the dew factor when it comes on just gets slightly better to bat in the second innings."

“In Dubai, we've seen the teams who have batted first have not scored as many runs as they would like to, but definitely dew plays a big part in the second innings. The ball tends to come nicely compared to what happens in the first innings. It just grips a little more because of the dryness in the pitch. But it's definitely a factor and an advantage to the team batting second,” Rohit added further while comparing this Abu Dhabi track to the ones they encountered in Dubai.

Unfortunately, India won’t have any more games in Abu Dhabi in this World Cup, even if they manage to secure a backdoor entry to the semis. Yes, a 90-minute drive from their team hotel in Dubai pre-and post-match can be taxing for the players but if you can take a sneak-peek into their mind, most of them would prefer to play on this deck rather than on a toss-dependent venue like the Dubai International Stadium.  

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