WHILE THE rest of Chennai was busy getting back to its feet, in a quiet corner of the city, Stuart Broad was trying to see whether his foot could take his weight. The England fast bowler, who’s missed the last two Tests, made a quiet, inconspicuous visit to the Chemplast ground, some 13 km from Chepauk and 2.4 km within the vast confines of the IIT campus, at around 4 pm for what can best be described as a ‘clandestine fitness test’.
He arrived almost incognito in a ‘tempo traveller’ accompanied by bowling coach Ottis Gibson and another member of the support staff. Sporting the English version of the ‘sports bra’, Broad bowled 36 deliveries on a hastily-prepared pitch at the Chemplast ground and, at least on the face of it, looked to be in good stead.
There were a couple of deliveries that jumped off a length. Most of the others were pitched slightly fuller and kept knocking the middle-stump back. Broad had plenty of discussions with Gibson post almost every delivery, and it was the length that they seemed most focused about.
“That would have been a wicket,” he screamed with glee after getting a ball on the perfect Broad length which hit the surface and rocketed into the glove of the support staff member.
Not too far away from the action stood Vijay, the 50-year-old who’s in charge of the Chemplast ground and stays in a room of the pavilion itself. Having seen the cyclone wreck the area surrounding the ground two days earlier, Vijay had just set himself up to get started with the task of getting the ground back in shape with the off-season having commenced. That is before he received an unexpected phone-call at 7 am, inquiring whether he could get a pitch ready for the session. “You can’t say no to such opportunities. So I quickly saw the nature of the pitch and told my authorities that I could do it. At around 10.30 am, a couple of senior members from the English team management came around for an inspection and they were happy. Then Broad came here at 4 pm like was planned,” said Vijay.
“They seemed happy with how his body was coping and how he was bowling. In my opinion, he should be fit to play the Chennai Test,” he added.
Broad was at Chemplast for exactly an hour before posing for pictures with a couple of the groundstaff and a young kid who couldn’t believe his eyes as Broad walked off the ground. Gibson, though, seemed more surprised to find a couple of journalists at the venue, quipping, “News spreads fast around here, doesn’t it!” with a smile before boarding the tempo van.