Amidst high drama over the condition of the pitch and the outfield, Team India have decided to curtail the duration of their practice match against county side Essex. The warm-up match which was supposed to be played from July 25 to July 28 will now culminate on July 27 as the playing conditions left the visitors unhappy on Tuesday (July 24).
"Essex Cricket and the England & Wales Cricket Board have today agreed, at the request of the BCCI Management Team, that the scheduled Tourist match between Essex and India will now be played over three days," the Essex County quoted as saying by PTI.
However, an Essex county representative maintained that the Indian team "were happy with practice facilities", attributing the shortening on the hot prevalent conditions because of the current heat wave in the UK.
When asked about the rough outfield, and whether that could have been a rationale behind the curtailment of the game, the representative refused to comment any further.
As per the reports in PTI, the Indian team management took this decision after inspecting the pitch. Indian coach Ravi Shastri was seen having an animated discussion with the local officials after getting a sight 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 studied the conditions and were seen having discussions with the ground staff.
A senior member of the ground staff spoke with PTI at the end of it all on condition of anonymity and said that "all requests of the Indian team management have been accepted".
When insisted if that included "shaving off the grass", he replied, "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)."
Nonetheless, Essex made it clear that spectators who had purchased tickets for the final day's play will be refunded in full.
Reports also suggest that the Indian team management was not pleased with two net pitches as they were completely bald.
After speaking with India’s coaching staff, the ground support staff trimmed the heavy grass layering from one of the adjacent wickets to give it the look of match-wicket with an equal amount of surface grass.
This facilitated the Indian batsmen to get a feel of match day conditions, and all the leading batsmen took throwdowns in that wicket. India's practice session lasted nearly four hours, with players arriving in two batches. Nearly all the batsmen and bowlers had thorough workouts, with Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli also focusing on slip fielding.
With the wicket and ground conditions turning out to be completely different from what is expected to be on offer during the five-Test series, it will be interesting to see how the Indian team management goes about their business over the next three days.
The highly-anticipated Test series between England and India will commence on August 1 at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
India squad for first three Tests against England:
Virat Kohli(c), Shikhar Dhawan, Lokesh Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami
(With PTI inputs)