The weather gods have certainly not been kind to the North Zone Ranji one-day Tournament. Even after rescheduling the event, the news from at least two of the three venues scheduled to host the matches on Friday wasn't encouraging.
While Mohali should not have any problems in conducting the Punjab-Delhi match as the wicket and the ground look fine, the other matches scheduled to be held at Sector 16 Cricket Stadium Chandigarh and Patiala are still uncertain as the grounds and wickets here have been left wet by the heavy downpour. At best, one can hope for a truncated match, and that too if the sun shines in all its glory on Friday morning.
“The wicket has been dampened by the heavy rain and we have been trying our best to dry it up. But as it remained quite cloudy even after the rain stopped, we couldn't succeed. So I can't see any possibility of the match stating before afternoon,” said coach-cum-curator Harish Sharma.
The situation is pretty much the same in Patiala too. “We only knew two days ago that the match had been rescheduled for here, but by then the rains had already damaged the wickets. We are trying our best to prepare it for tomorrow's match, but the situation looks grim,” said an official from Patiala.
The scene in Mohali however, looks pleasantly different. The ground and the wicket looked dry and the Punjab team had a strenuous net session to prepare themselves for their toughest match in the tournament.
“It's going to be a hard-fought match as Delhi are a competitive team but we too are quite confident,” said Punjab skipper Pankaj Dharmani.
But haven't the continuous rains and the irritating wait for the action to start taken away much of the intensity from the tournament? “I don't know about the other teams, but we are really charged up and keen to do well," said Dharmani. "It didn't affect us much as the boys kept each other in a jovial mood throughout," chipped in Dinesh Mongia.
Dharmani also felt they would have an edge over Delhi at least in terms of focus on the game. "We have been practising here regularly, while Delhi went back home. So I feel we would be more focussed than our opponents, who might take some time to get used to the conditions again," he said.
But even as Dharmani claimed that the break hadn't altered their mindset, he admitted the rain, or even its threat, would bring about changes in their strategies.
“If the match is delayed or there is a threat of rain during the match, we might try to squeeze in an extra all-rounder,” he said.
At Mohali: Punjab vs Delhi.
At Chandigarh: Haryana vs Himachal.
At Patiala: Services vs J&K