Durban: If another passenger being allocated Harbhajan Singh’s seat on flight SA 547 from Johannesburg wasn’t bad enough (apparently, it’s not uncommon in the festive season), poor Sreesanth didn’t have a room in his name when Team India checked into the Southern Sun Elangeni!
Harbhajan eventually got an upgrade and Sreesanth, MoM in the first Test, didn’t have to wait for too long. But, then, the Indians’ journey (the flying time is under an hour) from the commercial capital to this premier holiday destination wasn’t without incident.
Wednesday morning’s flight, by the way, was delayed by at least 30 minutes — thanks in no small measure to the boarding gate being changed to another level at the 11th-hour.
Hopefully, there won’t be hiccups when Rahul Dravid and Co. seek to build on the 1-0 advantage gained at the Wanderers. The second Test, of course, is some days away and is only scheduled to begin at Kingsmead on Tuesday.
Perhaps, it has everything to do with the Test win, for the players appear relaxed. Dravid’s family (Vijeta and son Samit) has been with him from the start, Virender Sehwag is never without wife Arti, while senior-most pro Sachin Tendulkar’s family (Anjali, daughter Sara and son Arju-) came a few days ago. His in-laws are also around.
[Young Arjun is a big Mahendra Singh Dhoni fan and was thrilled when his father did the introductions at Johannesburg airport.]
Then, shortly before the team’s departure, one-time First Lady of Indian cricket Dona and Sana arrived from Calcutta (via Mumbai). If Sourav Ganguly was welcomed by teammates in Potchefstroom, the wives made Dona feel comfortable.
Moving away from the families, India’s record in Durban is anything but great: A massive 328-run defeat in the 1996-97 Test when no more than 66 were scored in the second innings and, more recently, being bowled out for 91 in the second ODI.
Yet, selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar’s “gut feeling” says the three-Test series “will be wrapped up” at Kingsmead. “I’d felt that way before the first Test and my feelings are no different this time,” he told The Telegraph.
Asked if he looked at himself as a lucky mascot, Vengsarkar replied: “Not at all... I’ve just been around (from before the Test series)... The boys have done everything... They’ve got to make winning a habit, though.”
The weather hasn’t been great in Durban (promoted as ‘South Africa’s playground’) for the past few days, but KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union CEO Cassim Docrat maintained that the “preparations” hadn’t been affected. “Work is on schedule, but may get hit if it rains in the next couple of days,” he said.
It’s still early, but as of now, the wicket has considerable grass. Kingsmead, in any case, is known to offer the most bounce in this part of the world. However, after being bowled for a mere 84 in innings No.1 at the Wanderers, the South Africans have been caught in a catch-22 situation.
Graeme Smith and Mickey Arthur have all the running to do.