India will try to move on from the Kumble episode during series against West Indies but weather could come in the way of cricket “AAO, AAO pata hai kyun aaye ho. Aur bhi aayenge, I’m sure.” It’s the first reaction you get from one of the more senior members of the Indian team as soon he spots the paltry media presence at the Queen’s Park Oval. Earlier in the day, Virat Kohli has fired subtle yet pointed shots at Anil Kumble’s public statement. This is India’s first practice session without Kumble at the helm in over a year.
But the sheepish quip from the player reveals the weariness about a potential backlash following the now public rift between the captain and the former coach.
Not like it had anything to do with India’s rather hampered nets session on the eve of the opening ODI, which will be held here on Friday. The culprit for that were the rather ordinary facilities at the Queen’s Park Oval. Trinidad was at the receiving end of a dreadful thundershower on Tuesday courtesy Hurricane Bret with many houses having their roofs blown off and flooding reported in many areas around the island. Fortunately, not a single life was lost.
It washed away a practice match between West Indies and the Trinidad & Tobago national team, which was anyway under threat since it had been organised at a non-international venue with dicey floodlights. So the hosts’ preparation was further hampered as they look to regain confidence against the Champions Trophy finalists after having recently struggled to draw a series against Afghanistan.
But Port of Spain and the Queen’s Park Oval hardly felt the real wrath of Bret with the impact felt more in the southern and eastern regions of Trinidad. Yes, there was a heavy downpour around the Savannah, which is next to the Oval, but nothing so drastic that the stadium couldn’t recover from.
Less than a year ago, the Indian team had spent nearly four days twiddling their thumbs while the fourth Test was washed out despite some days hardly witnessing any rain. Yet, as the Indians arrived at around 11.30 am, the practice area behind the Joey Carew Members Pavilion was in shambles. It meant the two teams — the Windies had come earlier — had to stick to centre-wicket practice. Here too, the nets provided to the Indians were substandard. They didn’t even stretch past the halfway mark of the pitch and it meant the Indian players on the sidelines were often in harm’s way with balls constantly flying past them.
The pitches too seemed rather underdone with the fast bowlers limited to only a handful of deliveries. It resulted in the batsmen spending most of their time facing throwdowns. The pitch for the spinners’ net, meanwhile, was a dustbowl with balls even from the local net spinners turning square and bouncing viciously. This would have been great preparation for the Indians if they were indeed in line to face Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne in tandem the following day. The match-wicket itself seemed rather bare, even if the local curator insisted it on being lively.
Kohli was among the first players to walk out followed closely by Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant. The three then ran laps around the ground before Kohli, Sanjay Bangar – the senior-most among the coaching staff in Kumble’s absence – and Dhoni indulged in long chats. With Kumble not there, Bangar and Raghu had to make do with the throwdown responsibilities.
Focus on Pant
The first 15 minutes or so once the Indians were warmed up and ready for nets were all about Pant. It was as if he was being put through some initiation ritual with everyone from Dhoni to Kohli rolling their arms over while Pant faced them without any pads on.
But it soon turned out to be an exhibition of power-hitting, which has brought Pant this far. He sent a number of balls into orbit, with a couple nearly landing in the Jeffrey Stollmeyer Stand, which is located some 30 yards behind the boundary boards. Dinesh Karthik was later spotted helping Pant don his unique, baseball-inspired headgear but the Delhi stumper didn’t seem too comfortable donning it.
The outfield, thankfully, seemed to be in a better condition than what it was during the washed-out Test last year but there still remained a couple of damp spots, which kept the Indian fielding drills to a minimum. Fortunately, the rain stayed away.
Forecasts suggest that there are rain and thundershowers in the offing on all three days over the weekend. And the not-so-special drainage facilities here could well mean that the opening two matches of the five-match series are just one major shower away from being washed off completely.
There is a risk of there being no cricket at all played during the Trinidad leg of the tour, and the Indians might be left twiddling their thumbs again in Port of Spain.
But at least, based on the recent fallout and the public statements, they’ll have a dressing room where tensions aren’t running too high.
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