India's World Cup campaign will finally get underway in two days' time, in Southampton against South Africa. Virat Kohli's team is the only one to not have played a single match in the tournament yet. It's been a topic of debate; the reason is the mandatory 15-day gap between the IPL final and the next international fixture for the Indian team as laid down by the Supreme Court of India, which the ICC honoured.
Not that Kohli and Co. are complaining. Far from being restless, the Indians have mixed training with leisure. Since arriving in England, Kohli has travelled to London to meet the queen and the royals at the opening ceremony, returned to join the others in training, and also partnered his squad members in a game of paint ball. Sunday was an off day, but training has resumed since.
Based on the evidence, here are some talking points to emerge before India's tournament opener.
Will Bhuvneshwar be the third seamer?
The forecast suggests a cloudy day in Southampton come Wednesday. Will that tempt India to play Bhunveshwar Kumar, who also batted first in the nets on Monday, as the third frontline pacer?
The other reason to field Bhuvneshwar could be the success of short-pitched bowling so far in the tournament on mostly flat pitches. Having three fast bowlers, along with Hardik Pandya, could add muscle to India's fast-bowling arsenal.
If Bhuvneshwar is included then how does it affect the combination? Six batsmen, including Hardik as the allrounder, and at least one spinner - Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal - plus three seamers leaves one slot, which could be a tussle between Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja.
Will it be Jadeja, who excelled in the warm-up against New Zealand in overcast conditions at The Oval? Or Jadhav, who has just recovered from the shoulder injury he picked up in the IPL, but is yet to play? On Monday, Jadeja was among the first set of batmen in the nets and then bowled extensively in the main nets in the company of Kuldeep. Keeping in mind South Africa's cautious batting on Sunday against Bangladesh, Jadeja might just have the edge.
Rahul will be the No. 4
From being the third back-up opener, KL Rahul has jumped the queue and will occupy the crucial No. 4 position in the batting order. His century against Bangladesh in the warm-up game last week has left no option for the team management, and Vijay Shankar, who chief selector MSK Prasad had marked for the spot, might have to wait his turn.
Today, although he trained, Vijay mostly bowled to the main batsmen and then took throwdowns for a bit. Rahul, meanwhile, had a complete batting session carrying forward the touch he had shown in Cardiff, playing the ball under his eyeline and timing it nicely.
… which brings us to the pitch
Till about 1.30pm today, pitch No. 11, where the match will be played Wednesday, was lime green. Within 15 minutes, the grass was shaved and the strip suddenly became a wheatish brown, bald patch.
In the last five completed ODIs at the ground, the average first-innings score is 311, with the team batting first winning three of those matches. The average for fast bowlers has been 58.4, with an economy rate of 6.4, while the spinners average 60.1 with an economy of 6.0. That must surely affect the team combination for the Indians.