Every time an Indian bowler picked up a wicket, the team came together, charging in from different parts of the ground, and sometimes even the reserve players joined in, carrying water. A quick huddle was followed by a rousing “Come on India!” cry that sounded especially loud in the quiet surrounds of Christchurch's idyllic alternate cricket grounds.
This practice of having on-field huddles began in Australia last year, and is now becoming a talked-about feature of their success in New Zealand. “It boosts our energy levels. When you hear the word India shouted out, each player feels he has to do something for his country,” said Ashok Meenaria, the captain. The team has decided that they will use the huddle and the cry at key moments — when they first step onto the ground, when a wicket falls, when they finish an innings or a session well.
Beginning the tournament with a strong win, even if the opposition was only Afghanistan, was important. The top order batsmen all looked relaxed and confident and the bowling attack is peaking appropriately. The team realises this is an important campaign and barely stopped to celebrate their first win in a World Cup match. “Our main job here in New Zealand is to win, so there's nothing special to celebrate,” said Meenaria.
The Indian team is different from many others in the fray. The attitude of the players is professional and serious and enjoyment comes from besting the opposition. But in their second match, against Hong Kong, India’s challenge may be overcoming the conditions. The game is at a ground set in the middle of Hagley Park, a 407-acre green lung in the heart of Christchurch.
The rolling greens and natural woodland are beautiful, but as the eye is soothed other senses will be challenged as the cold winds from the deep south drive through the plains.
India’s youngsters have worked hard on getting used to these conditions, and subtle changes are in order. The captain has to ensure the appropriate bowler is operating with and against the wind. Fielders have to stay alert as the ball might swirl about during high catches.
Last year, when the Indian senior team was in Christchurch, they had to put in extra sessions at open nets in the Lincoln University campus to counter the wind factor. “The ball holds in the wind a little bit and from a batting perspective you need to hold your shape for a bit longer,” explained coach Gary Kirsten. India’s juniors haven't articulated their plans so carefully, but the way they're shaping up, opposition players better get used to hearing the cry “come on India!”