There's been talk about seaming drop-in pitches, about rain and the cold, but Sunday, a day when the sleepy southern city of Christchurch grew more somnolent, it was the turn of another of the elements to make its presence felt. From early in the day, the wind buffeted away, giving the Indian team plenty to think about as they made the journey to the Lincoln suburb where they trained.
Once at the venue, they split into two groups, with one lot starting off at the nets while the majority used a playing field to conduct an “open net”. This scenario is the closest to real match play that the coaching staff could simulate. Gary Kirsten's decision to opt out of having a camp in Mumbai before the tour, choosing instead to arrive in New Zealand five days ahead of the first competitive fixture, proved to be an astute move.
This Indian team has benefitted from some purposeful preparation and the practice was a perfect illustration of this. Christchurch, reputed to be the second-most windy city in the world after Chicago, gave the Indians a taste of what could be in store.
In the open net, the bowlers took turns at bowling into the wind, a job that no quick man will voluntarily take up. Traditionally, the junior-most quick bowler is handed this unwanted job while the big guns pick their end to bowl from. But this team does not operate along such feudal lines.
“We practiced with all the bowlers into the wind. Every bowler will have to do the hard yards at some stage. It's not going to be easy but we're prepared for that,” said Kirsten. “We don't operate as a bunch of individuals. We're focussed on what we can do as a team. We know that someone's going to have to step up to the plate and do something that's not easy to do.” But it's not only the bowlers who are affected by the wind. Batsmen have spoken about how it affects their balance and alters the pick up and swing of the bat. Fielders settling under high catches will have their judgment tested.
“It's really just adapting to the situation,” he explained. “The ball holds in the wind a little bit and from a batting perspective, you feel like you need to hold your shape for a bit longer. Bowling with the wind, you know as a batsman that the ball is going to get to you a bit quicker and you prepare for that.”
Since the Australia home series in October last year, India have played 17 matches (Tests, ODIs and T20s) in varying conditions home and away and lost just once. You can bet they owe a huge chunk of this to the preparation they have put in.