Mumbai: Robin Uthappa mentioned a “knee” niggle as the reason for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s initial absence at nets on Friday evening. But the Team India captain put all speculation to rest minutes later.
There was no sign of discomfort as he repeatedly smacked the ball into the stands. More importantly, the reassuring smile was back on his face.
The Brabourne Stadium is all set for scintillating strokeplay on Saturday as the ODI world champions take on the Twenty20 world champions in the first-ever Twenty20 international on Indian soil.
India’s spectacular victory in South Africa has almost been forgotten after Australia thrashed them 4-2 in the seven-match ODI series.
But Twenty20 is a different ball game. The Indians are keen to prove that their world triumph was no fluke.
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting did not play the Twenty20 World Cup semi-final which they lost to India.
He will be back in the side on Saturday, along with Twenty20 World Cup’s highest run-getter Mathew Hayden, who missed the last two ODIs due to a hip injury.
Ponting said his team was not looking at the one-off Twenty20 match as a chance for revenge against India.
“There’s nothing about trying to get even. We are looking forward to playing against the Indians who won this format of the world championship a few weeks ago. This match has been talked about even more than the ODI series,” Ponting said.
“Playing the world champions in this format is enough of an inspiration. I hope it will be an interesting game tomorrow, an exciting game and we want to put up a good show and execute our skills well,” he said.
Ponting also said left-arm spinner Brad Hogg was down with a sore throat. James Hopes has a hamstring strain and is likely to sit out.
In-form left-arm spinner Murali Kartik has been added to the Indian side in place of injured leg-spinner Piyush Chawla’s. Kartik, who captured six wickets in the final one-day International at the Wankhede to guide India to a memorable victory, was rewarded for his good showing.
Opener Virender Sehwag also missed practice because of personal reasons, but would be available for the match.
The excitement is slowly building up. The stadium has been given a fresh coat of paint, and all 26,000 tickets have been sold out.
Sixteen professional dancers have been roped in as cheerleaders to provide entertainment. The dancers will be split all round the ground at six different platforms. DJ Sanjeev Vyas will be in charge of the music.
“We are using state-of-the-art Line Array system for the music. It will ensure that the spectators sitting in the first and last rows can hear the music with the same intensity,’’ said a spokesman.
“Twenty20 format is an entertainment package. It gives the cricket fans a choice — either go for a movie or enjoy a three-hour game…” he said.
India (from): MS Dhoni (captain), Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh, Sreesanth, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Ajit Agarkar, Joginder Sharma, Yousuf Pathan, Murali Kartik.
Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Matthew Hayden, Brad Haddin, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds.
Umpires: Suresh Shastri and Amish Saheba; TV: GA Pratapkumar
Match Referee: Chris Broad
Match starts: 7 pm