Monday, 30th October 2017

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Rain spells gloom

Indians stay away from practice because of rains, West indies doesn't give practice a miss

By Sudipto Gupta in Chennai
  • Published 15.12.19, 2:18 AM
  • Updated 15.12.19, 2:18 AM
  • 2 mins read
Skipper Virat Kohli has a problem of plenty over choosing first XI (PTI)

There was quite a buzz in and around the MA Chidambaram Stadium here, on Saturday.

Two armed policemen were standing on either end of the wicket like uniformed batsmen; a super-sopper was being circled around the ground trying to mop away unwanted surface moisture; a lady ground staff, armed with a stick, was scolding two stray dogs for trespassing; and just outside the stadium premises, a gathering of a few hundred people were sloganeering against recent decisions by the government at the Centre.

While all that quite filled up the Chennai air around Chepauk, it couldn’t really make up for the absence of the Indian players, who opted to skip practice on the eve of the first ODI of the three-match series against the West Indies.

Without the Virat Kohlis, the venue seemed to be just a reflection of the gloomy sky that has blanketed the city for the last couple of days.

The Indians cited heavy rain as the reason for not practising, but the start-stop drizzle didn’t chase away the Kieron Pollards from nets, where they sweated it out for more than two hours on Saturday. Maybe that’s a luxury that the No.2 side in the world can afford, the No.9s can’t.

A different way of looking at it could be that rest is precious given how hectic a schedule the Indian cricketers suffer. And as Glenn Maxwell has said, too much of cricket is perhaps not good for health.

There is also a third point that needs to be mentioned. Despite all the talk of cricket nowadays being an unavoidable juggle of the three formats, how much sense does it make to play an ODI series when the focus is on building the right T20I squad for the T20 World Cup which is less than a year away?

India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour believes format isn’t an issue — “we are not just playing ODIs, we are playing Tests as well,” he said — but then it’s not just the duration of the game that gets shorter or longer with the change of format, and expecting the modern-day cricketer to shuffle across formats without it affecting his game is like asking someone to be a Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Eliud Kipchoge at the same time.

Keeping all that aside, if one was to speak about Sunday’s match, there are quite a few issues to deal with. The weather tops the list.

Forecasts for Sunday doesn’t show any rain, but that’s hard to believe given how dark the sky has been over the last two days.

If the rain does stay away, the next important subject would be the pitch. From a distance, it looked a barren, brown patch — a typical Chennai wicket that doesn’t promise too many runs to the batsmen. Rathour too said that the wicket was “on the slower side”. But with both the teams sporting enough power-hitters, predicting a low-scoring match wouldn’t be wise.

It would be interesting to see what XI captain Kohli chooses on Sunday. In other words, will Rishabh Pant keep his place? Or will opener KL Rahul be used as a wicketkeeper, drafting in another batsman in the middle order? Will there be space for the exciting Mayank Agarwal?

Also, one doesn’t know if the Kuldeep Yadav-Yuzvendra Chahal spin combination will be revived on Sunday. It would certainly not be easy to ignore left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja because of his all-round skills.

The West Indies, on the other hand, appear to be unknown elements. They have the punch, but will they be able to throw it?

Sunday will provide all those answers. But first, the rain must do an India — it must not show up.

  • Match starts: 1.30pm.