Mohali a mystery for both teams

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Mohali

WOODEN honours boards crisp with hand-painted white lettering line the walkway to the grand entrance to the main pavilion of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium, or Mohali.

Are any South Africans honoured here, you ask as you search the lists for familiar names.

Happily, yes. Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers scored centuries in SA’s 2011 World Cup match against the Netherlands, and Makhaya Ntini’s 5/21 against Pakistan in 2006 are the best figures in a one-day international at this ground.

But no Saffers feature on the boards that matter most, those that record centuries and five-wicket hauls in tests. This would not be possible considering SA play their first test in Mohali on Thursday.

And just as you turn away wondering if the situation will be remedied over the course of the next five days, it catches your eye.

“Kevin bloody Pietersen, 19 to 23 Dec. 08, 144”, the 22nd of the 25 centuries scored here. OK, so it doesn’t really say “bloody”. But it should.

India have won only five of the 11 tests in Mohali but the last time they lost here was also the only time; in the ground’s inaugural test in December 1994 against a West Indies team that included Brian Lara and Courtney Walsh.

So, for all the talk of the venue harbouring one of the faster pitches in India, they are still difficult to beat here.

At least, that’s the history. The modern reality is that the home side are almost as ignorant about Mohali as a test venue as SA.

Of the home side’s squad of 16, just seven have played tests at this ground. But their collected experience amounts to only eight tests.

In fact, of the 317 caps owned by India’s squad, just 106 have been won at home – a mere third. They last played a test in their own backyard in November 2013, which means they have been on the road for 17 matches in the format.

Some of them have good Mohali memories. Shikhar Dhawan made his debut here against Australia in March 2013, and after 15 tests the 187 he scored in his only innings in that match remains his best performance.

Leg spinner Amit Mishra’s two tests in Mohali makes him the only member of the squad to have played more than one here. Like Dhawan, he made his debut in that game against the Aussies – and also like Dhawan the 5/71 he claimed are his best figures after 16 tests.

What is now the PCA stadium was a swamp until it was re-invented in 1993 as India’s most well-appointed cricket ground, right down to its 16 floodlight pylons that are unusually short to avoid tangling with aircraft arriving and departing at nearby Chandigarh International Airport.

Sadly, the ground does not seem to have benefited from the sweeping renovations of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi grounds for the 2011 World Cup and is a little shabby around the edges.

But that’s nothing a South African’s name on the honour boards – the name of a proper South African – wouldn’t  fix.

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