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Pitch puzzle, Ashwin the leggie, party preps - it's all happening in Ahmedabad

The buzz - cricketing and not - is palpable in these parts, and the onlooker can only hazard guesses about what's in store on Sunday

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
This will be part of the grand party come Sunday in Ahmedabad  •  AFP/Getty Images

This will be part of the grand party come Sunday in Ahmedabad  •  AFP/Getty Images

The click-clack of the cameras as the lensmen took photographs furiously accompanied India's entry into the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sports Complex in Ahmedabad for an optional training session two days out from the finale of the 2023 ODI World Cup.
As Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma entered the Narendra Modi Stadium, there was a commotion in the hospitality area on the top deck of the stands. Photographers who had to be in the middle to shoot the training session had been caught off-guard as they sipped cups of hot chai (tea). Many of them left their sugary cups half-sipped, picked up their kits, and ran.
If you weren't a photographer, and just viewing all of it from afar, the chaos was amusing.
From high up there, an area that is open to people to take in the view on non-match days, you could see the curator rolling one of the surfaces to the right, not dead centre.
Only a while earlier, they were working on a surface next to it, after the covers had been peeled off. It set tongues wagging. What's happening to the pitch? Are they going to change it? Again?
Dravid and Rohit spent considerable time trying to study whatever they could. From a distance, it wasn't quite clear if they looked at one pitch or two. And, when batting coach Vikram Rathour joined them, deep discussion began. Every now and then, they made hand gestures towards the deck(s) - perhaps they know what no one else does. Or not.
What could they have been discussing that they hadn't already?
It has been a ritual of sorts for the leadership group to arrive in a new city and make a beeline for the venue immediately to look at what's on offer.
In this case, you can read as much as you want into it, but they gave away precious little, except show, not for the first time, how much surfaces have been on India's minds. So much for home advantage.
Meanwhile, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishan Kishan, R Ashwin and Prasidh Krishna began their nets, Rohit and Dravid joining them soon after. Ashwin gave Jadeja a working over with his bagful of tricks, loading up like a left-arm spinner would and delivering from different angles.
As Dravid kept his eyes on Ashwin, you wondered if there was something more to all of it than this just being an optional session. Could he be the trump card - who also sent down some ripping legbreaks - India have reserved for the final?
Up in the top tiers, Gujarat Cricket Association officials were busy working out the logistics around the invitees for the big day, which includes top industrialists, Bollywood celebrities and the who's who of the political world. A central desk has been set up and been in close coordination with volunteers manning the VIP arrival section of the airport that, only earlier in the day, had been decked up, it's marble flooring and exteriors receiving care for the massive inflow of celebrity arrivals.
As the players wrapped up and the lights took effect, the rehearsals for the closing ceremony began. Hundreds of enthusiastic children, along with their parents, queued up to carry the flags for the pre-game routine during the anthems. The attention then turned to the committee tasked with carrying out what is supposed to be a spectacular air show lasting ten minutes soon after the toss, with nine hawk aircraft from the Indian Air Force's Surya Kiran Acrobatic Team set to wow the audience.
The flying squad has been in training for a week in Ahmedabad, with the loop manoeuvres and barrel rolls set to be on the agenda at speeds close to 900kph. Drones belonging to the IAF have carried out surveys around the ground, even as heavy security presence - as many as 6000 personnel are set to be deployed on match day - went through their regular checks and routines.
Unlike previously, when the roads leading into the venue were chock-a-block with people trying to grab their tickets, there was a sense of calm. There was an orderly queue of people picking up tickets booked online. It was a pleasant sight to see in the area that has some of the most precious pieces of paper in the country at the moment.
The association officials, on their part, say that lessons have been learnt from the confusion that reigned earlier, especially ahead of the India vs Pakistan game. What they haven't been able to solve - and, honestly, no one really can - is the demand vs supply imbalance when it comes to hotel accommodation in the city.
Several housing complexes within the city have put up makeshift tents for visitors for a small rental fee ranging from INR 1500-2000 per person for a night. It's merely a workaround to ensure fans coming in from other parts of the world aren't left in the lurch. The hotel rooms available are all exorbitantly priced or in faraway Gandhinagar and Nadiad.
As such, the roads within the city are all decked with lights, in what seems like an extension of the Diwali holidays, as a staff member of one of the hotels put it. A massive fireworks display is set to be part of a grand extravaganza on Sunday, along with a laser show and musical performances.
It's one giant party all right. Hopefully, the cricket will be as grand, like it was at Lord's four years ago.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo