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A bunch of college boys had queued up since morning to enter the stands of Holkar Cricket Stadium even before the Indian team bus arrived at the venue. The Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association is among those few associations in the country which allow fans to watch the practice session inside the stadium. Students who had bunked college lectures jostled along with those who couldn’t procure match tickets to get a peek of the star cricketers.
They were in pursuit of selfie moments but first they had to get inside the arena. Police had made it clear that no bags will be allowed inside the ground and the young crowd agreed without much fuss. And so, there was a line of bags outside the ground; the youth didn’t obviously mind their bags lying unattended for a few hours.
Inside the stadium, the bowlers might be feeling the same sense of being unwanted. It was a very different kind of Indian training session. The Indian bowlers hardly bowled in the nets and the likes of Umesh Yadav, Harbhajan Singh batted first before Indian top order took over the batting. The young Indian batters were attacking, each shots which entered the nearly stands were cheered loudly and many feared too of getting hit.
It was clear that the second ODI will certainly not be a contest between Rohit Sharma vs Dale Steyn or Indian bowlers vs AB de Villiers. Instead, it will be a competition between bat v bat, batsmen v batsmen. Who can hit more, longer, and score more? As Ishwar Pandey, a young pacer from Madhya Pradesh sums it up, “Chotta ground hai aur run bahut bante hain. (The ground is small, lots of runs will be scored). This is not place for bowlers in limited overs.”
Mushtaq Ali country
Indore has always been a batting paradise in the limited-over format. Very aptly, it’s also the place of the legendary batsman Syed Mushtaq Ali, known for his fearless and dashing brand of cricket. No wonder the BCCI had named their annual T20 championship as Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The last match India played here in 2011-12, India had posted 418 runs courtesy Virender Sehwag’s 219, and in 2008, India scored 292 runs to beat England. It’s one of the venues where India has never lost an ODI match.
In these tough times where Indian team has lost T20 series 2-0 and lost first ODI in Kanpur, these stats might bring some hope.
In his press meet, Rohit Sharma, the man who’s wicket South Africa probably desires the most, didn’t want to predict anything. “The average score here has been around 300. Obviously, that will be a benchmark again. But if you bat well, and don’t lose too many wickets, you might end up getting more than 350 also. I don’t believe in predictions. Things can go completely opposite if you predict anything, so I’m not a believer in that. If you don’t lose too many wickets, if you bat well, you might get 350 runs,” he said.
It was an interesting press conference in more ways than one. A store room has been converted into a press arena and the lack of proper acoustics resulted in some hilarity. Every question echoed loudly and Sharma didn’t understand the questions being asked. Finally, he said, “Aap bina mic ke poocho (Ask without the microphone!)”
Captain’s final word
In the first ODI in Kanpur, India had gone in with Ajinjkya Rahane at No.3, pushing Virat Kohli down. Sharma saw it as a captain’s prerogative. “I feel completely and entirely dependent on what MS thinks about it, and obviously we have Ravi Shastri, B Arun and Bangar who get that thought process going. They’ll come out with a solution. And whatever they decide to do, it’ll be best for the team. At the moment, yes, we’re trying to find out what will be the best combination going forward, but in the next few games, we’ll have a proper batting line-up. But yeah, we need to get this going. It’s an important game, so we have to get the combination and the batting-order right. It depends on what MS thinks about it.
“I know Virat has scored most of his runs batting at No. 3, and Ajinkya just played at No.3 and got some runs. But I don’t know if it’s a permanent solution, but time will tell as to what will be the ideal batting line-up for us. No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 are very crucial positions, as we saw in the last game. They are crucial positions in any format, not just ODIs.”
The press conference is over and it’s a time for a few local journalists to seek their own selfie moments with Sharma. And when he walks back to the ground, the policemen accompanying him compliment him on his looks before they nudge him with a question: ‘Has Virat Kohli left the stadium?’ Sharma smiles and assures them that he is still there training somewhere.
It’s 3pm, the long queue has not stopped winding, many a bag still remain unattended. The police say they don’t mind the crowd. They have just one request after the unfortunate events in Cuttack. When both teams come out to play on Wednesday, they want the crowd to send them back with bagful of memories.