| Team India vice-captain Sachin Tendulkar during practice at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack on Tuesday, the eve of the second ODI against the West Indies. (PTI)
Cuttack: Situated in a delta formed by Orissa’s main river Mahanadi and its branch Kathajodi, Cuttack is a sleepy town with population under six lakhs. A winter, breezy Tuesday morning — with a minimum temperature of less than 20-degree Centigrade — and a holiday (Saraswati Puja) to boot, provided enough reasons for the Cuttackis to stay indoors.
But it was a different Tuesday morning.
With people on the streets and policemen deployed around the main chowks, it was an unlikely Cuttack atmosphere. The hustle-bustle was right from 9.30 am when the Team India bus entered the Barabati Stadium.
The Pepsi Cup second one-dayer between India and the West Indies, which will see Barabati hosing an ODI after a gap of about four years, gave the Orissa people a chance to catch up with their favourite stars amid the festival fervour. For the record, the last time Barabati hosted a one-day International was on November 6, 2003 (India vs New Zealand).
Like in Nagpur, a confident-looking Rahul Dravid read out the likely XII without any confusion. “RP Singh, Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina are not there in the XII. So playing two off-spinners is an option, of course…” said Dravid without any fuss.
It also means Rohtak allrounder Joginder Sharma, who caught the selectors’ eyes after his sparkling Ranji performance with Haryana, stands a chance.
“There will be a toss-up between Sreesanth and Sharma,” was Dravid’s straight reply. Mediumpacer Shrama, with his ability to scrore runs, may have an edge though. “He can be useful at No. 7,” indicated the captain.
Having made a lackluster one-day debut with Bangladesh in 2004-05, Sharma, however, is more confident this time.
“I’ve had a great Ranji season this time, and I’ll try to fire on all cylinders in the wicket, which seems batsman-friendly,” he told The Telegraph.
The slowness and dryness of the wicket may see India opting for a twin spin attack in Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar. “The wicket appears slow and dry, and it seems the ball will stay low. We’ll decide on the issue after seeing the wicket in the morning,” said Dravid.
The D-factor is another thing that pops up in every day-night match, and so is at Barabati Stadium, on the banks of Mahanadi to the north.
Going by the indication, Team India seem unlikely to unsettle the opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Sourav Ganguly, which yielded 144 runs. “Sourav batted well and he looks good and fit as well,” informed Dravid.
A determined Sourav had few rigorous catching sessions before he padded up for a couple of overs.
However for India, the real ‘good news’ came late at night following an announcement from the West Indies camp that Brian Lara won’t be available for the match owing to a knee injury.
The West Indies physiotherapist Stephen Partridge said in a statement: “Brian has a longstanding chronic problem in his left knee. And after the first ODI in Nagpur he pulled up a bit sore in that knee and I have advised him to skip the second ODI.”
Though Partridge brushed aside any concerns for Lara’s World Cup availability, no decision has yet been taken about his chances in the rest of the series. In Lara’s absence, vice-captain Chris Gayle will make his debut as the captain. Incidentally, Lara was the top-scorer — 89 — for the West Indies during their only clash with India at Barabati. That was on November 9, 1994. The visitors lost that by eight wickets.
Although there was some injury worries for Dwayne Bravo — he had collided with the umpire during the first ODI — he was declared fit to play here.
Footnote: The selection committee meeting for the last two one-dayers (Chennai, Vadodara) will be held in between the match on Wednesday. According to sources, there would be no “major” changes and, so, Yuvraj Singh’s return for the ongoing series appears uncertain. Chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar, by the way, landed here on Tuesday evening.
India (likely): Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth/ Joginder Sharma, Zaheer Khan, Ramesh Powar.
West Indies (from): Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brian Lara, Dwayne Bravo, Reyad Emrit, Runako Morton, Darren Powell, Ian Bradshaw, Denesh Ramdin, Dwayne Smith, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Devon Smith, Jerome Taylor.
Umpires: Billy Bowden and Amish Saheba. TV: GA Pratapkumar.
Match begins: 2.30 pm.