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New Zealand get their first taste of India

DND boards flashed on either side of the hotel corridor right through the day, the moment it was announced that the Municipal Stadium, where the New Zealand team were supposed to practice in the morning, was too damp for nets.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2003 00:40 IST

DND boards flashed on either side of the hotel corridor right through the day, the moment it was announced that the Municipal Stadium, where the New Zealand team were supposed to practice in the morning, was too damp for nets. Rain had started in the wee hours on Thursday morning and continued till nine.

The second setback for the visitors followed very quickly. Their new psychologist Gilbert Enoka, who was supposed to hold a session with Stephen Fleming and Co, failed to reach here in time after his flight from Chennai was delayed. That too called off, the New Zealand team, here to play the first of their two three-day practice matches — this one against the Board President’s XI — decided to laze in their rooms for the rest of the day.

The Board President’s XI, on the other hand, were able to practice late in the afternoon at the venue itself, the ACA-VCSA Cricket Stadium, some 20km from the city. But their captain Virender Sehwag and fellow India star Yuvraj Singh hadn’t arrived in the city when the team bus left the hotel with the other players. The manager and East Zone selector Pranab Roy, who arrived late on Thursday afternoon, said he “had heard that the flight Viru and Yuvraj were supposed to take was delayed.”

The organisers were fighting against all odds. Curator PR Vishwanathan and his men were working overtime to roll out the last bit of moisture from the virgin wicket after the morning rains. Still, the area towards the end of the bowlers’ run up looked very damp.

The Kiwis though, who had visited the ground on Wednesday, looked very satisfied with the wicket. It looked hard and has a shine to it. So the ball is likely to bounce, but the Indians shouldn’t be worried as even the last bit of green has been neatly removed.

And the red soil top soil that is predominant in this part of the world, tends to get sticky. So, even if the bounce is there, it’s going to be pretty slow and shouldn’t worry the Indian batsmen.

However, there is a bit of a bother. A part of the stadium, which looks over the Bay of Bengal, is yet to be constructed and later in the day, when the sea breeze starts blowing, the ball could move around.

So, much like the Eden Gardens, where the breeze blows in from the Hooghly in the post-tea-session and poses problems for the batsmen, this ground too has the potential for that to happen.

But the wicket doesn’t have a history. Although it has been holding matches for the last two-and-a-half years, the newly-built 30,000 capacity stadium hasn’t hosted a big match yet. So there is a bit of scepticism about the wicket. The groundsmen though, are confident: “The wicket has been relayed according to the new Board of Control for Cricket in India guidelines,” they said.

Another thing has the organisers in a bit of a bother. Ticket sales have been remarkably poor. Although they say the location of the ground has a lot to do with it, in the city proper, cricket fever hasn’t set in. “We are bringing in school children to watch the match for free. But ticket sales have been poor and nobody is really eager to watch a three-day match here,” GJJ Raju, the joint secretary of the Vishakapatnam District Cricket Association said.

New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming, Nathan Astle, Ian Butler, Robbie Hart (wk), Richard Jones, Craig McMillan, Michael Mason, Jacob Oram, Mark Richardson, Scott Styris, Daryl Tuffy, Daniel Vettori, Lou Vincent, Paul Wiseman.

Board President’s XI (from): Virender Sehwag (capt), Aakash Chopra, Shiv Sundar Das, Wasim Jaffer, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, S Sriram, Ajay Ratra (wk), Ramesh Powar, Amit Mishra, Amit Bhandari, Siddharth Trivedi, Tinu Yohannan, Amit Uniyal.