“Not much to gain for us. Priority is to look after the players. Just a formality.”
That was the crux of India captain Rohit Sharma’s brief chat with the host broadcaster after winning the toss against England in Saturday’s World Cup warm-up match.
No wonder then that India would not have been too disappointed when a thunderstorm that started minutes before the start of play washed the game out. As a result, India left for Thiruvananthapuram for its last warm-up game with only four players training on the pre-match day.
The fact that three of the five warm-up games so far have been washed out has resulted in questions being raised - more than the scheduling and selection of venues - on the importance and requirement of warm-up games.
Most teams were busy rotating players in international fixtures with less than a week remaining for the warm-up games. It has resulted in a majority of teams not taking the warm-up games seriously. Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan preferred to rest during his team’s warm-up tie against Sri Lanka on Friday.
It shows that there has been a sea-change in the manner in which the teams look at warm-up games over the last few decades. At a time when there were no warm-up games, it was the pre-World Cup probables camp that used to be the hunting ground for cricket captains to hunt for an X-factor.
Navjot Singh Sidhu, for instance, was rechristened from a strokeless wonder to Sixer Sidhu due to his exploits in the pre-tournament nets ahead of the 1987 Reliance Cup. So much has changed since then that most teams prefer to save their energy during the warm-up games.
Add to the fact that the warm-up games are not official ODIs - any 11 can bat or bowl during the game - also takes the sheen out of the games.
It does not really mean that warm-up games have become redundant ahead of showpiece limited overs’ events. Despite Rohit playing down the game, India would have been hoping to let Shreyas Iyer and R. Ashwin some vital game-time.
While Shreyas proved his fitness with a classy hundred against Australia last week, he is still short of match-practice. Similarly, Ashwin has played just four ODIs in the last six years, including his two appearances against Australia.
Even Bangladesh had a lot of positives to take on Thursday with Litton Das and Tanzid Hasan having virtually sealed the opening pair combination for the World Cup with a 131-run partnership against Sri Lanka.
The next two days will wind up the warm-up stage of the World Cup’s 13th edition. It will be interesting to see the approach adopted by the teams, weather permitting.
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