It was a scene straight out of an India training session from a couple of years ago — Greg Chappell and Ian Frazer standing together, eyes fixed on the nets, talking to each other and suggesting a change here and there.
Except that it wasn't.
It was, in fact, the Australian cricket team which was working at the nets, and the former India coach and his once deputy were busy ironing out the chinks in the Aussie armour ahead of their Test series against India.
Jaipur has, in almost every way, been the proverbial home away from home for Ricky Ponting and his boys. The Academy here for which Chappell is a consultant, has paid attention to every detail in an effort to make the Aussies adapt and acclimatise to conditions quicker.
From customised wickets to video analysis, the Academy has turned into a virtual control room for the visitors. With Chappell overseeing the preparation at the Academy and making sure his new team gets every little bit of help it can from this stint, it would hardly surprise anyone if the tourists were in better shape come the first Test in Bangalore.
No quid pro quo this
The Australian players have themselves acknowledged the work Chappell has put in, preparing the wickets and getting the logistical support together. "Greg has done wonders already with the team and his knowledge both as a player and as a former India coach will undoubtedly help us," was what Michael Hussey had to say.
Now, while Chappell, in his new capacity, is well within his rights to provide the best possible facilities for the Australians, it is the role of the RCA that needs to be closely examined.
It must be a first that a touring side is being provided such absolutely customised facilities at an academy run by the state association. While it is normal for an away side to make use of facilities at a privately run facility —which is what teams, including India, regularly do on foreign tours - seldom, if ever, can a touring side command the kind of modified facilities the Australians have enjoyed here.
Almost everyone at the Academy —from the administrators to the local players — have gone out of their way to provide every little bit of assistance they can to the Aussies, a situation that is stark contrast to what the Indians faced when in Australia. "Ahead of a tri-series game in Melbourne, the local net bowlers did not show up, forcing the likes of Sachin and Raina to turn their arm over," said a member of the touring party there.
Bewilderment & anger
Even former players seemed surprised by the treatment the Aussies have been getting in Jaipur. "I must say we were never provided such facilities while on tour," said Madan Lal. "At best, we were given two wickets to practice, and finding local net bowlers often proved to be a problem. Most of the times we had to make do among ourselves."
"Chappell, however, is doing his job - he knows how tough it is to tour India and is doing everything to make sure his boys are well prepared," Lal added. "The real person to find out what the thinking behind this exercise is Lalit Modi."
"I seriously do not understand what is happening in Jaipur at the moment. I mean, by the time the first Test starts, the Indians may have squandered every bit of their home advantage," said another former player.
A current India player, speaking from Vadodara, where most of the Indian Test squad is stationed for the Irani Cup, told HT it was "ridiculous" to give the world champions this advantage.
"There's a limit to playing the friendly hosts. This is Australia we're facing. Have they (the officials helping out) forgotten Sydney? It's a battle and we are giving away battle plans and handing them the advantage gift-wrapped. And the Board officials are too busy to care."
The reference was obviously to the Mumbai AGM and election weekend ahead. The BCCI brass is obviously busy but if they could spare a little thought for what's happening here in Jaipur and the actual cricket, it might help their own cause in the long run.