India v Australia, 2nd ODI, Kochi October 1, 2007

Showers threaten another washout



With no efficient drainage system to speak of, the ground staff at the stadium will have to work overtime to make the conditions fit for play on Tuesday © AFP

Unexpected showers in Kochi have put the second one-day international at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in doubt. The rain made it almost impossible for the ground staff to work on the outfield, which has already sustained an entire monsoon of showers.

The pitch was damp in the morning but the outfield was the main concern. Still waterlogged, and with further showers imminent, you could almost stick your finger into the mushy ground. The stadium lacks an efficient drainage system and the ground staff will have to work overtime to make the conditions fit for play.

A sudden shower at 10.50 am today became a 20-minute downpour; locals said a repeat before the start of play would be enough to rule out a match. There were near-perfect blue skies by early evening yet the surface remained soft underfoot and the Met department predicts further rain on Tuesday.

Both teams cancelled their practice sessions in the morning because of the wet outfield. Adam Gilchrist, Australia's stand-in captain, came to the ground along with the coach Tim Nielsen and inspected the conditions. "The ground is very heavy and there are a few areas of concern but they [the ground staff] are working very hard," Gilchrist said. "If there's no more rain today there's a chance of play. Not being a local, I don't know how well the ground drains. I'm optimistic about it."

Optimism is about all anyone can work with at the moment. A 45-minute drive away, at the Taj Malabar Hotel, the players did their best to keep afloat. Many went to the gym but some, including Matthew Hayden, spent time with young schoolchildren.

Hayden supports a local charity in Kochi and the last time he was here he even picked up some recipes for his The Matthew Hayden Cookbook. Hayden was also seen getting off the plane in Kochi with some fly-fishing material so if there's no game you can imagine where he'd be off to.

Gilchrist said it was frustrating for both teams to have to sit and wait, and that all his side could do was try and adapt to the scenario. "Both teams would have loved a win the other night [in Bangalore] to get the momentum going in the series but it didn't turn out that way. If [Tuesday] is washed out, both teams will want to get that win in whenever it is; even if it comes down to a three-game series. I don't think there's any more added pressure. They are all going to be high-intensity games."

Nathan Bracken, father to a first-born son, Chase, flies into India tomorrow and will join the squad for the next match in Hyderabad. Ricky Ponting is also in with a chance for that game after coming along well in his training, with a 30-minute daily batting session. Gilchrist said having the two back would be a big boost to the visitors. It's still a waiting game for Australia but having a squad of 14 fully-fit players would be the best scenario going into what could now be a five-match series.

Sourav Ganguly, who pulled his right hamstring while fielding in the first game, has been rested as a precautionary measure and Lalchand Rajput, India's manager, said Harbhajan Singh was fit for the game.

The Nehru Stadium is unique in that it is the only venue in India which hosts more than one sport (football), much like the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia and Eden Park in New Zealand. A capacity 80,000 crowd would make for a heated contest - literally, as it's a mass of concrete with giant convex floodlight pylons arching over the ground - but with the delayed monsoon it does not look too promising.

This brings us to the matter of scheduling this series. While rain can never totally be ruled out in Kerala, evening showers are almost a certainty in Bangalore and it would have made more sense for the Indian board to start in the north and then make its way down south.

This game is vital for Kochi, a venue which has hosted only five ODIs - India have a 4-1 win-loss record here - and in a state which has only produced two Test cricketers, Sreesanth and Tinu Yohannan. Now only if the rains would oblige.

India (likely): 1 Sachin Tendulkar, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Yuvraj Singh, 5 Rahul Dravid, 6 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), 7 Irfan Pathan, 8 Harbhajan Singh, 9 Zaheer Khan, 10 Sreesanth, 11 RP Singh.

Australia (likely): 1 Adam Gilchrist (capt/wk), 2 Matthew Hayden, 3 Brad Hodge, 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Andrew Symonds, 6 Brad Haddin, 7 James Hopes, 8 Brad Hogg, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Mitchell Johnson, 11 Stuart Clark.

Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo