| Mahendra Singh Dhoni at a TV talk show in Kochi on Monday. (Reuters)
Kochi: In what’s quite unusual, neither the Indian nor the Australian cricketers could have nets on Monday, ahead of the second ODI.
While the Mahendra Singh Dhonis didn’t mind — many in Team India have been playing almost non-stop from the third week of June — the Australians’ priority was to remain focused.
“We’ve got to be careful about not switching off and getting into the holiday mood,” explained stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist.
With the official hotel being one of the most picturesque of Taj properties, it actually wouldn’t take much of an effort getting into that mood.
As for the hosts, the Kerala Cricket Association, every mandarin was moving about with a prayer on his lips. It’s because of heavy rain on Sunday evening and night plus the downpour on Monday morning that the teams didn’t have to sweat it out at the multi-purpose Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium.
Thankfully, it didn’t rain later on Monday (not till late in the evening, at least), but parts of the outfield took such a beating that there’s a huge question mark over a timely 9 am start.
Seems impossible really.
In fact, should there be any more rain, the Future Cup’s match No. 2 may not take place at all. That would be a pity as the locals are desperate to applaud their favourite son, Sreesanth, from close quarters.
The fiery quick did play in the last ODI here, versus England, but that was 18 months ago. Much has happened since: Match-winning performances, fines, a World Twenty20-winning medal around his neck, an offer to star alongside Mammooty...
That, by itself, would make for a blockbuster.
Incidentally, to celebrate our stunning performance in the World Twenty20, Sreesanth invited teammates and the support staff for dinner at his place.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, though, Sreesanth has gone public with his “ambition” — “five wickets” on Tuesday.
But, then, he never ceases to surprise.
While the Australians could retain the XI which did duty in the abandoned ODI in Bangalore, there’s talk that the Indians will make two changes.
For the record, regular captain Ricky Ponting (recovering from a hamstring injury during the World Twenty20) hasn’t been ruled out, but it’s most unlikely that he’s going to play.
“No disrespect to Ricky, but his absence hasn’t made our team totally unstable... Somebody (Brad Haddin) has got an opportunity and he scored a wonderful 69 the other day,” Gilchrist pointed out.
Very careful with words, he added: “Whether I’m leading or not, my mental preparation doesn’t change that much... In any case, Ricky’s in the dressing room and I can always consult him...”
According to The Telegraph’s sources, Robin Uthappa is set to take the injured Sourav Ganguly’s place, while a fit Harbhajan Singh could replace Ramesh Powar, who got a hammering on Saturday.
Sourav will be available for the third ODI, in Hyderabad, on Friday.
Dhoni didn’t attempt anything out of the ordinary on his debut as ODI captain, except the move to promote Irfan Pathan (not a first, as it was done in the Greg Chappell era), and it’s to be seen whether an ace is unleashed on Tuesday.
Provided, of course, the elements don’t upstage the cricket. Usually, the Nehru Stadium wicket has encouraged tall scores.
The Indians and Australians have faced each other just once before (the city’s maiden ODI) in Kochi, almost a decade ago, with the home team winning rather comfortably.
India (from): Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ramesh Powar.
Australia (likely): Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Brad Haddin, James Hopes, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Mitchell Johnson.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor, Suresh Shastri.
TV: G.A. Pratapkumar.
Match Referee: Chris Broad.
Scheduled start: 9am.