Apart from the fans waiting for their beloved cricketers, the Indian team was greeted at Edgbaston by the news of Andrew Flintoff being uncertain for the third NatWest series One-day International, to be played here on Monday.
Flintoff, who returned to international cricket after the World Cup in the first match of the series at the Rose Bowl after undergoing an ankle surgery, is uncertain for Tuesday's match following an inflammation in his right knee.
While Flintoff, one of the world's leading all-rounders, hasn't yet flourished with the bat, he was England's best bowler in the first two ODIs. With combined figures of 17-0-68-6, Flintoff has given the England attack an extra edge.
He bowled with intensity, consistently sending the ball down at 90 mph, but England coach Peter Moores revealed that Flintoff started feeling some irritation after the Rose Bowl game.
And it developed into stiffness after he crashed into an advertising board, trying to stop a boundary in Bristol. “He's very keen to play,” Moores said. “He's missed a lot of cricket and wants to go out there but we need to balance it over a long series. They've looked at the injury and there's no major concern with it long term. If we know there's no risk in him playing, we'll take it. If we think it's more sensible to miss a game, we'll do that. We'll see in the morning.”
While Flintoff had a go with the bat in the nets on Sunday, he did not bowl or participate in the team rugby session early in the morning. He will undergo a fitness test on Tuesday morning before a final decision is made.
Moores, though, hinted that England are unlikely to go in with him as a specialist batsman. “We are looking at him as an all-rounder,” Moores said.
India vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that it would be a blow for England if Flintoff were unavailable. “He is the kind of player who always has an impact on the game,” Dhoni said. “He is the perfect all-rounder, he comes after 10-12 overs and bowls with the field restrictions, another three overs in the middle and then at the death. And as for his batting, everyone knows what he can do.”
Zaheer named in 12
Meanwhile, the Indian camp had another reason to smile as pace spearhead Zaheer Khan returned to training on Thursday after missing the Bristol game due to fever. Zaheer participated enthusiastically in the fielding drills and did not seem to be in trouble.
“Zaheer went through the fielding session for about 45 minutes, and had a bowl as well,” Dhoni said. “The main thing is bowling, fielding. We will have a look at him in the morning.”
For the first time in the series, the Indians named the 12 on match eve, leaving Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma on the bench. With Zaheer coming in, there is a likelihood of Munaf being preferred over Agarkar.
Dhoni, meanwhile, said that the mood in the camp was “good, the confidence up”. He said that the team is treating the remainder as a separate series. “In a seven-match series, if it is 1-1, it is better to think of it as a five-match series now,” he said.