Two points of conversation dominated gatherings at Kochi on Saturday. For weeks now, the city has held its breath in anticipation, thrilled to be hosting a One-Day International between India and Australia. As a venue that does not get as much cricket action as it would like, the city has been gearing up for its big day. But, even before Super Sunday can come along, uncertainly loomed large. Blast from the past
The first point of conversation, whether it was at the plus hotel where the teams were staying, or at small tea shops that dot the roads leading to the Nehru Stadium, where the match will be played, was the weather.
The rain has come down so hard in the last few days that the teams have been forced to stay indoors. For the Australians, this has been an opportunity to put in the hours in the gym and the swimming pool, working on strength and conditioning. For the Indians, the break began as a much-needed chance to put their feet up and let their bodies heal, but by Saturday evening, even they were champing at the bit to get out onto the field and play some cricket.
The good news for the organisers is that each time the rains have stopped, the sun has come out in such force that surface moisture has dried up in a hurry. The bad news, however, is that the Nehru Stadium is a multi-purpose venue, and does not have the kind of drainage that most cricket grounds have.
In a cricket ground, the hard outfields give cause for optimism, but the softer ground here means that retained water makes the surface of play very soggy. Local experts were hopeful that at least a curtailed game could take place, and the players of both teams were braced for this eventuality.
"I think this whole series will be hard fought, between two evenly matched teams, irrespective of how many overs we get in the first game," said Australia's ODI captain Michael Clarke.
"Both teams are quite young and a lot of players are getting an opportunity to play for their country. Our recent form in T20 cricket has been good, we made the World Cup final, but the conditions are so different here. It will be all about adapting."
When the weather wasn't being discussed, the hot topic was the travails of the Kochi franchise in the Indian Premier League. The team means a lot to the state of Kerala, and the prospect of having a home-grown outfit taking part in the most glamorous league in the country was something that Malayalees were eagerly looking forward to. However, the squabbling between various members of the consortium that won the bid for the Kochi team has left locals on tenterhooks.
With the Board of Control for Cricket in India getting tough on the Rajasthan and Punjab teams, there's nervousness over whether the Kochi team will be a non-starter. The Kerala Cricket Association has urged members of the Kochi consortium to settle their differences, and only four days remain for them to form a company and submit the necessary documentation to the Board.
It's a time of uncertainty in more ways than one in Kochi, and the wait for quality cricket continues. For the moment, though, all eyes are on the sky to see if the rain gods will relent.