Rajkot: The usually quiet outskirts of Rajkot are abuzz with expectation as the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Khandheri gets set to host its first Twenty20 International between India and Australia on Thursday.
The swanky ground made its debut as an international venue earlier this year with an ODI against England, and all 28,000 tickets have been sold out for the encounter to be played under floodlights.
However, the weather still remains a concern, and on Wednesday morning, the ground staff and top officials of the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) wore worried looks as dark clouds gathered.
More rains and thundershowers have been forecast for Wednesday night and Thursday — and there is no reserve day for the game.
By afternoon, however, they would all have heaved a big sigh of relief as the sun came out in its full glory, and the weather suddenly became warm and humid.
There is a lot of local interest in the match thanks to the presence of two Saurashtra boys in the India squad — Ravindra Jadeja from Jamnagar and Jaydev Unadkat from Porbandar.
Fans are also itching to get a look at comeback man Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj, 31, who was dropped for the Champions Trophy that India won in England in June and the subsequent tri-series in the West Indies and the ODI series in Zimbabwe, looks much slimmer than before, following a recent fitness-related stint in France.
The left-handed batsman gave a good account himself with the bat for India ‘A’ against West Indies ‘A’ and in the Challenger Series in which he captained champions India Blue.
The selectors have picked Yuvraj for the first three ODIs too, a decision that will give confidence to the dashing Punjab batsman before the home series against the West Indies and the tour to South Africa.
The Indian team has come together after a deserving two-month break from international engagements, though several players have appeared recently in the Champions League T20, domestic tournaments, or for India ‘A’. The players will take the field in a newly-designed team jersey.
But skipper M.S. Dhoni, who is himself sporting a new hairstyle, emphasised on Wednesday that when he takes the field, his focus is always entirely on the game at hand.
ODI world champions India are overwhelming favourites, with their batting and bowling looking formidable, in addition to the home advantage they enjoy.
The George Bailey-led Australia, meanwhile, are somewhat inexperienced, particularly in the absence of an injured Michael Clarke.
Australia are visiting India for the second time this year. When they toured in February-March for a four-Test series, Clarke’s boys were thrashed 0-4.
Then, they lost the Ashes series in England recently, but recovered to win the ODI series.
Shane Watson, who rebelled against the team management during the Test series in India, James Faulkner, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Glenn Maxwell have gotten acclimatised to the Indian conditions by playing in the CLT20.
Watson, who has been playing in the Indian Premier League since its inception, is expected to lead the Aussie charge with his all-round skills. And since he has a fair idea of Indian pitches and conditions, he is also expected to mentor the glut of youngsters in the squad.
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.
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