Media madness at Faridabad
There are two theories about how Faridabad, a 400-year-old city in Haryana, got its name. It's either a tribute to Baba Farid, a renowned Sufi saint, or to Sheikh Farid, the treasurer of the Mughal emperor Jahangir. Going purely by the boorish behaviour encountered from the administrators, one would definitely like to rule out the former. If you're looking for saintliness, go elsewhere.
The new regime can make several noises about ushering in a new revolution, but all they needed to do was to walk into the Haryana Cricket Association (HCA) to witness another sort of revolution. Four versus forty four is always a no contest and the manner in which the HCA officials took on the enraged pressmen and came off unscathed is still a wonder.
They called everyone at 1pm, found their inefficiency exposed and turned petulant, before they were overwhelmed by the rebuttal. A stampede was imminent, with photographers and reporters trying to get their way. A few fringe elements entered the fray as well. In the previous game in Delhi, there were several teenagers wearing media tags and hovering around in the press area. Here, such fringe elements may well outnumber the press contingent.
The England camp had their own reasons to bark. Only one team practiced at Nahar Singh Stadium at Faridabad and India, being the home side, got first priority. The England players, probably for the first time, will go into a game without having seen the ground earlier. Their coach, Duncan Fletcher, decided to take a peek but ended up spending a frustrating three-and-a-half hours in the traffic. "Is it fair to ask the guys to sit in the bus for three and a half hours one day before an ODI? It took us more than one hour to get here from the hotel." He had a look at the pitch, though, one with "no grass on it".
Fletcher hoped to avert another sweeping disaster - to join the ranks of Lahore, Mohali and Delhi - but added that it was a shot that had brought them results in the past. "They got to be just more selective," he continued. " It is like any shot: if you play the drive very well and they put five guys between mid-off and backward point, you drive. It is that simple. You make sure your decision-making is good. It is an effective shot, lot of sides in the subcontinent do it. We saw Rahul Dravid; he is a great batter who plays it effectively."
That great batter geared up for the game by countering offbreaks from Ian Frazer and Greg King (all with the elbow way beyond the 15 degree mark). He wished he wouldn't be booed, yet added that Indian players had to live with it; he hoped they would bat better, yet placed "tremendous faith" in his openers.
One opener had spent close to half an hour practicing the pull stroke, against a local bowler giving him throw-downs, and received constant feedback from a geed-up Greg Chappell: "Loosen up a bit Veeru, get either fully forward or fully back, if you're in position you can hit the ball anywhere." His opening partner, Gautam Gambhir, received throw-downs as well, but this time on a concrete pitch concentrating on his drives. One only hopes nobody tells the England bowlers this. They may spoil all the fun by bowling full to Veeru and short to Gautam.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo