While not exactly idyllic, Kochi has a way of wooing her visitors with a certain pastoral charm that is magnified by its proximity to the backwaters and the presence of scores of coconut trees.
The imagery, intrinsic to Kerala, is a refreshing departure from the concrete jungles that many modern cricketing centres are.
Coming from a region where sun-drenched beaches are clichés, the West Indies’s cricketers would know a thing or three about delighting in nature’s bounty.
Sure enough, its manager Richie Richardson raved about the scheduling that has West Indies playing in venues such as Kochi, where the team will meet India in the opening fixture of the five-match ODI series on Wednesday, and Visakhapatnam.
“Playing in places like Kochi and all these lovely towns reminds us of being back in the Caribbean,” he said.
“It was very nice of the BCCI to have arranged it like that, because most of us stay close to the sea back in the Caribbean.”
The familiarity doesn’t end there. The Windies were part of the last international match that was played at the Nehru Stadium here last November.
The match, in itself, didn’t pan out to the team’s liking as Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma condemned it to a six-wicket defeat.
But, there is no denying that the conditions here are friendlier to the side than other Indian venues.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Indian team bounded in merrily out of the tunnel that connects the change-rooms to the ground, kick-starting things with its standard football routine.
While there was light-heartedness all through — at one point, Amit Mishra was ribbed by his mates for ‘catching’ a football — it wasn’t the consequence of a lack of football skills.
The players’ approach, in fact, appeared to reflect their individual traits: a pumped-up Kohli wouldn’t let anyone dispossess him, outrunning others furiously; Ravindra Jadeja, with a mischief-laden smile, was the artful dodger; and skipper M.S. Dhoni was his usual competitive yet balanced self.
Once the action shifted to the nets, things acquired more seriousness. Dhoni and Murali Vijay presented contrasting rhythms of ‘smack’ and ‘block’ in the spinners’ and pacers’ nets respectively.
Dhoni was also seen engaged in an intense discussion with coach Duncan Fletcher, all along keeping a keen eye on the proceedings.
He even instructed the net bowlers to bowl to Suresh Raina at a certain spot.
While BCCI curator Taposh Chatterjee termed the wicket ‘sporting’ — an amorphous definition at best — with a fast outfield, Dhoni said it was difficult to describe its nature. He added that the outcome of the toss would be crucial if there was dew.Big role for Benn
The popular view, though, is that runs wouldn’t be in short-supply, and spinners might come into play; West Indies left-armer Sulieman Benn, in the absence of Sunil Narine, would have a bigger role even as batsmen such as Darren Bravo and Lendl Simmons might fancy their chances.
What the fans don’t want is a rain-marred game. The city has received showers over the last week and the air continues to remain heavy with humidity.
Even as dark clouds hovered around continually on Tuesday, the city gears up for yet another date with big-time cricket.
The teams (from):
India: M.S. Dhoni (c & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Murali Vijay, Kuldeep Yadav.
West Indies: Dwayne Bravo (c), Darren Bravo, Jason Holder, Leon Johnson, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Smith, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn.
Match officials: Umpires: Ian Gould & S. Ravi. Third umpire: C. Shamsuddin. Match referee: Jeff Crowe.
Play starts at 2.30 p.m.