India, South Africa train ahead of second Test with eyes on weather

All through the day’s proceedings, both the camps - and the groundstaff - kept staring at the skies, hoping for the heavens not to open up.

Rishabh Pant, Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma during a practice session.   -  K.R. Deepak

The Proteas slogged it for well over four hours, in the searing heat at the Maharashtra Cricket Association on the outskirts of the city that was once a pensioner’s paradise.

Rishabh Pant tonked net bowlers into the stands later in the afternoon during India’s optional training session. But all through the day’s proceedings, both the camps - and the groundstaff - kept staring at the skies, hoping for the heavens not to open up.

After all, the region has suffered with heavy flooding only recently, thanks to an extended monsoon. Add to that a thunderstorm warning predicted for the remaining week and India and South Africa camps will be hoping for the skies to remain clear for the second Test of the Freedom Trophy, scheduled from Thursday.

With the city experiencing incessant showers in the lead-up to the Test match, one can safely assume that the pitch preparation for the city’s second Test took centre stage.

However, Riyaz Bagwan, the Maharashtra Cricket Association official, did his best to put such doubts to rest, stressing on the sand-based outfield that dries in no time and the pitch preparation being on course.

Considering the amount of rain over the last few weeks, it didn’t come as a surprise that the pitch had a tinge of live grass less than 48 hours before the start of the game.

But just when one was wondering if the venue can reverse the poor rating it received for producing a rank turner versus Australia in February 2017, the groundstaff swiftly moved into action.

Soon after a member of India’s support staff had a close look at the pitch, the groundstaff was seen scrubbing the pitch and mowing the grass, in an effort of indicative of making it more suitable for spinners.

Not that India’s pacers haven’t proven their mettle at home, with Mohammed Shami leading with a fifer in the fourth innings in Visakhapatnam last week to seal India’s win but perhaps the Indian team management doesn’t want to bring a potent Proteas pace attack into play.

With curator Pandurang Salgaocar keeping a close watch on the proceedings, it would be interesting to see if the 22-yard strip changes its complexion by the time Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis walk out for toss on Thursday morning.

Considering the false accusations against him in a shoddy sting operation, it was understandable that Salgaocar, a tearaway fast bowler in the ’70s, stayed away from the media.

If he can produce a fair pitch despite multiple challenges he is facing, including the weather intervention, Salgaocar would hold his head high come Monday.