Just two days after suffering their worst one-day series defeat in recent times, the Indians will find themselves in a school-like setting, against a team largely composed of freshmen. In a two-day work-out ahead of the first Test, they will take on an inexperienced Antigua & Barbuda side at the nondescript Police Recreation Ground.
Rahul Dravid had no qualms in admitting that India were "out fielded" in the one-day series but, considering the arena served up for the practice match, his team would do well to shelve their acrobatic skills for the moment. A day before the match, the Police Recreation Ground resembled a football field. A furrow ran through the centre and there were several large chunks of rough patches on the outfield. The groundsman, a jovial man who bowls legspinners for the Police club, attributed this to the drought that the area is experiencing.
The ground is also characterised by a distinct slope, one that might remind a few Indians of Lord's. The main square, though, is situated on a mound, one that may remind Ramesh Powar of Shivaji Park, his club in Mumbai. The size of the field may get Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni smacking their lips and at some stage of the game, spare balls may become a priority. Whether either will take the field is another issue, considering that the Indians might want to rest them ahead of the opening Test that is just three days away.
With a number of weary legs doing the rounds, the Indians may want give a chance to the five players - Dinesh Karthik, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, VRV Singh and Wasim Jaffer - who have flown down for the Test series. The opponents they face, though, are largely unknown. Only Sylvester Joseph, who is leading the side, Adam Sanford and Kerry Jeremy, the medium-pacers, have played international cricket. Justin Athanaze, the promising Under-19 star, Chad Hampson, the talented medium-pacer, and Gavin Williams, a batsman who's been playing club cricket in Australia, may be the others to watch out for.
Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid (capt), Yuvraj Singh, VVS Laxman, Mohammad Kaif, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth, VRV Singh.
Antigua & Barbuda
Sylvester Joseph (capt), Justin Athanaze, Adam Sanford, Kerry Jeremy, Anthony Martin, Devon Thomas, Chad Hampson, Gavin Williiams, Kerry Mentor (wk), Daniel Thomas, Michael Challenger, Greg Skepple, Stephen Matthew
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo