Morne Morkel was upbeat about taking on Asia's stars despite being part of a relatively weak team
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Chaos reigned supreme at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium on Monday. The day before the Afro-Asia Twenty20 game there were few signs of an impending intercontinental battle; the promised press conference got cancelled; half of the Asian team haven't arrived yet and one look at the African team sheet indicated they could be lambs thrown to the wolves.
On paper it's a major mismatch: A bunch of eager-eyed, almost anonymous Africans face up to a team of Asian giants starring Shahid Afridi, among others. However, the nature of the Twenty20 game offers hope. So believes Gulam Bodi, the vice-captain of the African squad. "It's Twenty20 cricket after all and funny things happen there," Bodi told Cricinfo. "To be honest, we are playing as men against men. We are not playing any names. We will go out there and put our ability to the best utility."
His bullishness is shared by Morne Morkel, the tall fast bowler from South Africa who ripped apart the Indian line-up in a tour game in Potchefstroom last year. "Yes, there are big players like Afridi but the basics of the game still remain the same. If we can get it in the right areas, anything can happen."
Morkel can also take heart from the pitch, which from the grassy surface looks as if it will offer bounce and pace. The KSCA have roped in the services of curators Blair Christiansen and Bede O'Connell, from the New Zealand Turf Institute, to oversee the preparation of the two pitches.
Christiansen, who was approached a month ago by the authorities, has been at work here for the past 11 days. "We have changed the soil type from the traditional mixture of red soil and local soil", he said while explaining the work done. "We have changed it to high clay content and put more grass on the track to allow the pace to come off the grass rather than the soil."
Given that it's a virgin track, will it be a disadvantage? "Yes, a little", he conceded. "But then there has always to be a first. I don't see any major hiccups. The pitch should play to expectations."
Pitch apart, the Africans could benefit from any sign of complacency or overconfidence among their opponents. Whether it's the the chaotic organizing process or general laxity many of the squad hadn't landed in Bangalore till Monday evening. They will have a nets session on the match-day morning and head straight into the game. Roger Binny, the coach of the Asian team, appeared relaxed. "It's just a one-off Twenty-20 game", he said, "the real thing is the one-day internationals after that."
His offhand statement mirrored the enthusiasm - or lack of it - among Bangalore's cricket-loving public. The turnout for tomorrow's match isn't expected to break any records - not even after the KSCA's offer of a free ticket along with every one bought for Wednesday's one-day international.
Bodi sees more stakes in it than that. "It's not about going out there and having a blast. We have played a lot of Twenty20 back home. The basics still remain the same. There is no use going bang-bang-bang. The first six-seven overs you play around, keeping wickets in hand and then you hit the accelerator. A score of even 180 is possible."
Bodi, who was born in Gujarat before emigrating to South Africa 17 years ago, spoke of the pride among his team-mates. "There is a good vibe in the team, it's a great honour and privilege for us to be here. We just landed this morning and the boys are tired but they are still very enthusiastic about playing the big stars.
"They have a point to prove, they are eager to play in front of the big crowds and take this great experience back home. There are a few youngsters in the team but they aren't daunted. All of us are just looking to go out there and play our best cricket."
It's that basic instinct that offers the best shot at a competitive game tomorrow. The weather could be a problem - this is the time of evening showers - and the curators are concerned. "We have covered the pitch and rain has done no damage so far. We can only hope we won't have any further rain", said Christiansen. At every level, this match operates on a wing and a prayer.
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant with Cricinfo