Clouds hover over Yuvi’s return

Rain, once again, is likely to play the umpire in deciding the fate of Tuesday’s match, India’s second and final T20 International of the series against New Zealand.



Chennai: Asking Yuvraj Singh if Tuesday will finally present him with an opportunity to permanently change the C word in his life to cricket, is very much like asking the whale if it will lose weight because of its regular swimming sessions!

Wondering why such a nonsensical comparison? Well, the situation, here, in Chennai, is that helpless.

Yuvraj is as eager as a newborn is about the world, but he is helpless.

And if the suspense is irritating you enough to look heavenwards for some divine intervention, keep looking because you are staring in the right direction. That is because rain, once again, is likely to play the umpire in deciding the fate of Tuesday’s match, India’s second and final T20 International of the series against New Zealand.

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In Visakhapatnam, the showers had played with emotions. Thousands had prepared themselves for a Yuvraj Night, only to see their enthusiasm washed away. The man himself had posted six tweets on Saturday morning explaining the excitement regarding his return to the lap of cricket. But a lap of honour was all that he could do for his fans.

Monday, in Chennai, woke up to a bright sun and a clear sky. When Team India arrived at the Chepauk for pre-match practice, at around 10.15am, not even the extreme pessimist would have thought that there would be a cloud over the match. But as the sun was preparing to recede to its westward resting den, at 4.30pm, all of a sudden one could see the darker side of the sky. For the next 40 minutes or so, it seemed that there was a gaping leak overhead.

The unexpected downpour interrupted the Black Caps’ practice. But more importantly, it has cast a thick curtain of uncertainty over the match. The forecast for Tuesday speaks of cloudy 24 hours with a 20 per cent chance of precipitation.

The organisers, on their part, are acting as Super Soppers to the doubters, absorbing the negative thoughts. “We have one of the best drainage systems among the cricket grounds in India… Do not worry if it rains prior to the match… We can get the ground ready. But it will be a problem if it rains during the match,” a TNCA official said.

For those who have started believing that this is a weather report, and not the preview to a cricket match… Apologies. But the flak should go to the BCCI, the umbrella body of the game in the country, for forgetting that umbrellas and bats do not go hand in hand.

About cricket now. From a broader perspective, this match has now turned out to be the only competitive international tie that both the teams have before the World T20 kicks off on September 18, in Sri Lanka. There will be warm-up games, but then they are exactly that… They are warm-ups without the desired level of competitiveness.

So both teams will hope to embark on their journey to the island nation on a winning note. As always at home, the Indians are the favourites to achieve that goal.

The pitch has a sporting look and shouldn’t be partial to either the bowlers or the batsmen. However, Chepauk, which is making its T20 International debut Tuesday, has been traditionally a happy ground for spinners.

Team news on the India front is pretty much the same as it was for Visakhapatnam. There’s just one batting slot that will see competition between Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary.

Among the bowlers, Irfan Pathan, Ashwin and Zaheer Khan are confirmed. There’s doubt over Ashok Dinda’s availability as he didn’t practice on Monday.

Officially, it was an optional session so anyone was free to skip it. But the pacer did pick up a niggle during practice in Visakhapatnam and chances are he will not be risked ahead of a big tournament. Lakshmipathy Balaji is likely to step in. But don’t rule out Harbhajan Singh either.

It was learnt that the Indian players will wear YouWeCan bands during the match to honour Yuvraj’s initiative.

Meanwhile, Chennai is still to react to the Yuvi hype. The Chepauk, at present, has a capacity of 28,000 and, interestingly, the organisers are not expecting a full house.

Twenty thousand is the official expectation.

Now don’t say that is why it is a Twenty20… That would be nonsensical as well!

Teams

India (likely): Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Lakshmipathy Balaji/Harbhajan Singh

New Zealand (likely): Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Rob Nicol, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, James Franklin, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills

Umpires: S. Ravi, Vineet Kulkarni

TV: Sudhir Asnani

Match starts: 7pm

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