Chelmsford: India’s four-day practice match against Essex was reduced to three days amid high drama over the condition of the pitch and the outfield, both of which apparently left the visitors unhappy and threw their preparations for the Test series against England haywire.
The Indian team management took this decision during this afternoon’s net practice after having a look at the pitch. Although there was no official word on why the match was shortened, Indian coach Ravi Shastri was seen having an animated discussion with the local officials after getting a glimpse of the grassy pitch and a barren outfield that can cause injury while fielding.
The rest of the Indian support staff, including assistant coach Sanjay Bangar and bowling coach Bharat Arun also took stock of the conditions and were seen having discussions with the ground staff. Given that the game is not a classified first-class match, it is confirmed that the Indian team will be using all 18 members of their Test squad.
Adjacent track used for training
Another reason for Indian team management’s displeasure was that the two nets’ pitches were completely bald in comparison to the match wicket, which had a healthy green top. After speaking with the visiting coaches, the ground support staff shaved off the heavy grass layering from one of the adjacent wickets to make it resemble the match-wicket with an equal amount of surface grass. This allowed the Indian batsmen to get a feel for match day conditions, and all prominent batsmen took throwdowns at this wicket.India’s practice session lasted nearly four hours, with players arriving here in two batches.
India will travel to Birmingham for first Test on Saturday
As per statement from Indian team management, the squad will travel to Birmingham on Saturday and start its preparations for the first Test (from August 1) a day early. A green-top wicket, along with a rugged outfield, in a non-first-class game against Essex wherein Alastair Cook is missing, is hardly the best preparation ahead of the first Test.
‘We have bent over backwards to accommodate visitors’ demands’
All requests of the Indian team management have been accepted. We have bent over backwards to accommodate the Indian team management’s demands. It is disappointing though because we had sold a lot of tickets for the fourth day (Saturday). -A senior member of ground staff
Precedent set in S Africa
On their tour of South Africa earlier in the year, India scrapped their warm up match because the team management thought it would be a better idea to spend more time preparing at the nets. However, India lost the first two Tests in Cape Town and Centurion before winning the third Test on a dodgy pitch in Johannesburg.
After the decision, Essex on Tuesday made it clear that spectators who had purchased tickets for the final day’s play on Saturday will be refunded in full.
(With inputs from PTI)