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India Tour of England: Pre-match talk in full swing

At Trent Bridge, the venue for the first Test, there is no escaping the conditions for India and hosts.

MS Dhoni during a training session at Trent Bridge. The first Test starts on July 9. (Source: Reuters) MS Dhoni during a training session at Trent Bridge. The first Test starts on July 9. (Source: Reuters)

There is an iconic steel bridge a stone’s throw away from the boundary line. Late in the evening, duck quacks bounce back from the top-tier of the stands. Rowers, cyclists, joggers co-exist peacefully on the sprawling lawns that spread between the stadium and the snaking river. Children fly kites and adults, inhabiting the parked boats, sip their evening drink enjoying the cool breeze.

But with a cricket field in the neighbourhood, not everyone has eyes for the idyllic riverfront. The match day is round the corner and the cricket crazies have started to troop in. Barmy Army is booking the BnBs and NRIs have started painting their faces in tri-colour.

For them Trent Bridge isn’t what it sounds, a bridge over river Trent. It happens to be the stadium where the ball swings the most in England. For them the beautiful Trent is a mere water body that cools the air before it gets trapped inside the stadium. And with a very straight face, even those who have flunked physics tests all their lives, talk about how the swirl of humid wind works on the ball, making it snake around.

Around the world languages and accents change but the cricket talk more or less remains the same. Replace Trent with Hoogly and you are at Eden Gardens or with Arabian Seas to get transported to Mumbai.

Quantum mechanics

Myths and theories have been regularly proven wrong but they continue to dominate the game’s narrative. So it was business as usual at Trent Bridge, next to the real Trent Bridge. It was a mix of cricketing folklore and complex aeronautics, with a bit of quantum mechanics thrown in too, that dictated the debates and excited the trend-spotters on the sidelines of the two team’s training session.

The players too joined in. English pacer Stuart Broad said how this happens to be the favourite venue of their No.1 pacer James Anderson and a happy hunting ground for their team. This lent more credence to the theory of the local conditions conspiring to make the leather float around in the air. Broad would also add how this could provide a challenge for a captain as consistent movement would mean they would have to keep the slips in place for a longer duration in hope of a wicket even if runs continued to leak.

Binny in focus 

The Indians too seemed to have been taken in by all ‘swing’ talk. With Stuart Binny’s importance growing at the nets with each passing day, it looks certain that the pace all-rounder would be included in the playing XI on Wednesday and thus expected to exploit the local conditions. Said to be a bowler for ‘helpful conditions’, Binny seems to be at the right place at the right time.

In case India do pick him as a fourth seamer of their five-member bowling department, it is easy to guess the dressing room thinking. They don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to exploit the pace-friendly condition. This has resulted in the Indian pacers receiving special attention from the time they have landed in England. For the last two days, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishwar Pandey, Pankaj Singh and Binny have bowled for more than an hour at stretch. The coaches have ensured that they bowl long spells without losing their intensity.

The new ball bowlers’ de-IPLisation – the process by which they start bowling fuller again – has been in full swing. And, according to Virat Kohli, the results have been encouraging. “In T20 you sort of lose your line and length. So it is more about practising in this weather, getting used to the ground and conditions. I am very excited about our bowling attack because we have got bowlers who can utilise these conditions as well as the opposition can,” he said.

Back in 2011 the venue saw the pacers enjoying success in the first innings but the pitch went dead and the swing stopped in the second. County matches this season have shown the changing nature of the conditions and the rather limited movement of the ball. In case that promised overwhelming ‘swing’ isn’t to be seen, the pre-match talk will be forgotten. But then again next season, when the cricket crazies return to Trent Bridge those theories will start floating again. Much like those neglected beautiful ducks quacking under Trent Bridge.

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