|Rohit Sharma, in Cuttack, on Friday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Cuttack: Forget any talk of cricket or discussion on team strategy, it is now more or less certain that Saturday’s fifth match of the ongoing one-day series will be a non-starter.
Friday’s Barabati Stadium seemed more fit for aquatics with scattered puddles and no hope of the rain relenting in the next couple of days. If every cricket enthusiast in these parts had a prayer on their lips for the past few days, a steady drizzle washed away all hopes by the evening.
So much so that the Odisha Cricket Association seems resigned to its fate. “The ground is completely waterlogged and the chances of it drying up is extremely remote. The pitch is safe, but the outfield might cause harm to the fielders,” said secretary Ashirbad Behera.
The weather hasn’t shown any sign of changing its mind since Cyclone Phailin crossed Odisha more than a week back. Plans to use the helicopter to dry the outfield also fell through after the conditions were found to be unsuitable.
A final decision on the match, though, will be taken after the officials make a customary inspection before the scheduled start.
The Indians, naturally, will be more affected, with the Ranchi ODI being abandoned and now the possible washout at the Barabati.
The series will effectively be reduced to a five-match affair with Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men trailing 1-2. They will have to win the remaining two games in Nagpur and Bangalore to prevent the Australians from restoring pride after suffering a 4-0 drubbing in the Test series earlier this year.
“If this match doesn’t happen, then we have to win the remaining two games. The conditions are not in our hands, and we can’t do anything about the rain... But we will try our utmost to win the remaining matches... This is a home series, so we’ll also get help from the conditions at all venues,” said an optimistic Ravindra Jadeja.
“It doesn’t look like there will be a match tomorrow though… Maybe if it doesn’t rain tonight… We are mentally prepared to play a match, no matter how many overs it is… It’s a home series, so everyone wants the match to happen and for us to do well,” the all-rounder said.
Jadeja obviously has reasons to feel at home. One of his three first-class triple centuries came here and he also took four wickets in an ODI against Sri Lanka at this very venue.
If the Indians decided to visit the Barabati for a game of football at the indoor facility, the Australians stayed away.
“It doesn’t look good at the moment, that’s for sure. We heard reports before we even arrived that there had been lot of rain and last night it certainly didn’t stop. I’d be very surprised if we got on tomorrow... It’s not looking great,” Shane Watson summed up the team’s mood.
A shorter version of the game also seems unlikely given the nature of clay soil that is common here. Even if it stops raining, it will take several hours of rolling to get the wicket ready.¶
India (likely): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Ranganath Vinay Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Shami Ahmed
Australia (likely): Aaron Finch, Phillip Hughes, Shane Watson, George Bailey, Adam Voges, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Clint McKay, Xavier Doherty
Umpires: Nigel Llong, S. Ravi
TV: C. Shamsuddin
Match starts: 1.30 pm