The 20km drive from the heart of the city to the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium at Jamtha seems worth it the moment one enters the sprawling 33-acre complex with superb facilities, picturesque and perfectly manicured to the last inch. No wonder, few had reasons to complain despite Friday’s evening show featuring Sri Lanka and India being the third international engagement here in less than two months, albeit by default.
The 45000-seater with plush corporate boxes is surely a paradise for fans who don’t mind the distance because few other Indian venues offer such comfort. And talking of paradise, there’s one in the middle as well, for batsmen.
The wicket for this second One-day International of the five-match series looks flat and if one goes by the bounce, India’s opening bowlers, Ishant Sharma and Ashish Nehra, got here in the initial overs in the T20 match last week, it should suit batsmen even better. Add to that a lightning fast outfield and another run feast could be on the cards.
It might not be something like in Rajkot where bowlers were butchered but even here there would be little margin for error.
Ishant isn’t here this time after being rested for the first two one-dayers, but Nehra and Zaheer Khan came back strongly at the death in the first ODI and would hope to keep their form going.
Virender Sehwag looks to have recovered from his knee injury if the couple of good passes for Nehra to score during the team’s pre-nets game of football are any indication.
And skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni confirmed he was fit to play, but there are fresh problems for Yuvraj Singh, who missed the first match due to a finger injury and skipped training on Thursday.
“He has flu, just flu till now,” Dhoni said with a smile. “He has flu and so we did not ask him how his finger really was,” the skipper added.
It could mean Yuvraj might be ruled out of the series if the selectors opt to give Dhoni another option when they name the squad for the last three matches in Chennai on Saturday.
The India line-up should be unchanged from the one in Rajkot, more so due to lack of batting options in the squad. And Yuvraj’s absence could be felt in the middle-order. It was even in Rajkot where India looked like getting to 450 having reached 300 in the 35th over with nine wickets in hand.
Sri Lanka too have their worries.
With injuries to Muttiah Muralitharan and Dilhara Fernando ruling both out of the series, their bowling has taken a major hit.
Reinforcements have arrived in the form of off-spinners Muthumudalige Pushpakumara and rookie Suraj Randiv and fast bowler Suranga Lakmal, but without international experience they still won’t be the options skipper Kumar Sangakkara could bank on, on a wicket like this.
Sri Lanka will hope Ajantha Mendis, who has been sitting out for most of the tour, now delivers the goods and Lasith Malinga gets fit to play.