After a day of will they or won't they, the India squad finally got their two-day preparatory camp before the one-day series against Pakistan underway at 5pm on Friday. It had been raining in the city for the last two days and a question mark hung over whether the players would train outdoors after further showers early in the morning. But somehow the groundsmen managed to put everything in place and saved the Cricket Association of Bengal officials from losing face.
Even then the players, under cricket manager Lalchand Rajput, bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad and fielding coach Robin Singh, could not utilise the entire width of the Eden Gardens. Part of the outfield leading to the dressing rooms was damp and even though Singh selected a drier patch for some fielding and catching practice, by the time the drill got over, the area of green around where the stump was dug in bore a dark brown look.
"The wicket was offering spongy bounce and was a little soft," a net bowler said after training. And that the batsmen were in for a tough time with the ball not coming on, was evident when the opening duo of Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar produced a series of edges and mistimed shots. The medium-pacers held back a bit and at the other net where the spinners were operating, even Rajput got some abrupt bounce.
The wicket had dried up considerably when Robin Uthappa and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni got their turn. Uthappa looked in sublime touch, especially against the spinners, Murali Karthik, Harbhajan Singh, Rajput, and Rohit Sharma and a host of net bowlers from local clubs.
The scribes present were surprised by the presence of an Englishman among the net bowlers. Medium-pacer Nigel Eastham, who will play for first-division club Kalighat for a part of this season, had his day under the floodlight getting a chance to bowl at the Indian stars. The Lancashire-based 18-year-old plays in the Northern Premier League back home and is here through 'some friends'.
Yuvraj yet to arrive
Players had started trooping in early on Friday from different corners of the country. Pathan was the last to check in and Yuvraj Singh was conspicuous by his absence. He would arrive on Saturday.