As Bangalore gets ready for Sunday's India-England match, there are doubts if the rain clouds will stay away. Saturday remained overcast for the best part; several parts of the city saw drizzles and there's a thunderstorm forecast for tonight. Friday had seen heavy rains but the playing area at the Chinnaswamy Stadium had recovered sufficiently from it today.
A sunny Sunday has been forecast, but there's only one thing to be said about Bangalore's weather with certainty: it is fickle. After the transfer of this game from Kolkata and the uproar over availability of tickets, a weather disruption would upset the fans severely. From a cricket point of view, India captain MS Dhoni said it's not a situation he can prepare for.
"There were times (during the recent tour) in South Africa where there was an 80 percent chance of rain, and it didn't rain at all," Dhoni said today. "But it did on days when there was a 20 percent chance predicted."
"We will see the forecast for tomorrow and make up our mind about the team composition," he said referring to the scenario where India may need quick runs if Duckworth-Lewis equations come into play.
Nehra may sit out
Virender Sehwag had suffered to a blow to his ribs, but Dhoni said there were no fitness concerns barring Ashish Nehra, who had operated at "80 percent intensity" at the nets today. It means the off-colour pacer may have to sit out given that his fitness issues have dented his form in a big way.
In his last 10 ODIs, Nehra's economy rate is 6.07, and he averages 46.2 for his 10 wickets. Worse, he rarely tends to recover from a poor start. The problem for India now is that S Sreesanth too was in poor form against Bangladesh, where India played three seamers.
It is unlikely India will retain those three, but this would only be finalised after a look at the pitch which had turned square in the warm-up game between India and Australia. It's also interesting to note that teams like West Indies, Zimbabwe, South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh have opened the bowling with spin in the tournament. But the two teams with the strongest spin attack --- India and Sri Lanka --- are yet to resort to this tactic.
'Not a turning wicket'
Curator Narayan Raju said today the pitch would be different. "We have been working on the pitch and it will not spin as much as it during the warm-up game," he said. The wicket had patches of green on Saturday.
Dhoni said it was damp and being rolled regularly. It is expected to play true, this being an important game. "We will take a call on the team composition after seeing the pitch in the morning," when asked if he will play a spin-heavy attack.
England captain Andrew Strauss says he wouldn't mind a turner. "If it's going to turn like it did in that Australia warm-up game two spinners are going to be a very strong option for us," he said.
Pressure and expectations
Having made a strong start in the Bangladesh opener, Dhoni said playing at home against a top side like England like have its usual pressures. "We did a good job in Mirpur," he said. "But we are not celebrating yet. There's always pressure when we play in India and the England game would not be different."
Strauss explained what a win would mean to him. "Winning here would be a huge lift for us and would send out a pretty strong marker to other sides," he said. "We'd love to spoil an India party here in Bangalore."
The bigger picture? India will become a certainty for the quarterfinals with a win here. But let's hope the rain clouds stay away.