India v Kenya, Rose Bowl, Pool C

A thorn in the side of the Rose Bowl

Roving Reporter by Hugh Chevallier at Southampton

September 11, 2004

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It wasn't all plain sailing for India on a tricky pitch © Getty Images
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This one-sided game added fuel to the debate. Not whether the Champions Trophy should be scheduled for the last half of September in a small, damp north-European island, but whether the Rose Bowl should be hosting international cricket. (And, given that its stands were painted sky blue with great swathes of fans wearing the Indian one-day kit, delphinium or gentian somehow seemed more appropriate than rose.)

The new Southampton ground, make no mistake, is a magnificent venue. Everyone has a cracking view even when wandering round or queuing for beer, it sits beneath attractive wooded slopes, the pavilion is light and graceful, and it's a stone's throw from the motorway network. With the extra seating brought in for the occasion, it can seat a respectable 16,000, so what's the problem?

Maybe there isn't one, but a key ingredient of international cricket is still missing. The Rose Bowl doesn't yet have an international-standard pitch. Even India, arguably the finest batting line-up in the game (admittedly without Sachin Tendulkar), and facing Kenya's modest attack, could not ignite this match.

The Southampton wicket remains a grudging, curmudgeonly pitch that tends to suffocate an innings. One-day internationals thrive on harder, faster surfaces than here, and this fixture suffered.

Despite the best efforts of the most partisan and enthusiastic set of fans the Rose Bowl can have seen in its short history - if you looked very carefully, you could just make out the odd pocket of Kenyan leaf-green in the fervent light-blue sea - onfield sparkle was in short supply.

With play beginning at 10.15 on a dewy autumnal morning, the Indian top order were justified in playing safe, and in the first 15 overs the crowd had to content themselves with more Mexican waves than boundaries. Virender Sehwag, though, can do only so much playing safe, and he had already gone to an ugly heave across the line that would have caused a wince or two on the village green.

Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman looked secure, if not at home. They prospered against largely innocuous bowling, but the stodgy pitch and treacly outfield prevented any fireworks. Both managed just four fours in their fifties as India hit only ten boundaries in their first 30 overs.

Against far sharper bowling, Kenya naturally found it even harder going. India's effervescent supporters, clanging, cheering, shouting and klaxoning their team towards the rout, probably wouldn't complain, but it could all have been so much more entertaining. And as the Kenyans' strength remains their batting, it should also have produced a closer game.

It might seem churlish to complain when the Indians totalled 290, but the Rose Bowl is due to host Test cricket in the near future. It has excellent facilities, it just needs the pitch to go with them.

Hugh Chevallier is deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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News : Bulletin
Players/Officials: Sourav Ganguly | VVS Laxman
Series/Tournaments: ICC Champions Trophy
Teams: India | Kenya
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