SPORT

Wet weather dampens Kiwis' plans

DIFFERENT BALL GAME: New Zealand's Ian Butler stretches to play the football, as Mark Richardson (left), Daniel Vettori and Blair (right) watch, on the truncated opening day of the three-day match against Board President's XI in Visakhapatnam on Friday.

DIFFERENT BALL GAME: New Zealand's Ian Butler stretches to play the football, as Mark Richardson (left), Daniel Vettori and Blair (right) watch, on the truncated opening day of the three-day match against Board President's XI in Visakhapatnam on Friday.  

VISAKHAPATNAM SEPT. 26. It can be especially frustrating for a visiting side when the tour gets off to a wet start. More so for the New Zealand team, which is in the country on a rather short Test tour.

The Kiwi think-tank has banked heavily on the two tour games as part of its adaptation process for the two-Test series. And so, when only 10.1 overs was possible on the opening day of its three-day match against Board President's XI at the newly-built ACA-VDCA Stadium, here, on Friday it meant valuable time lost in New Zealand's scheduled six days of match practice — that is including the tour fixture against India `A' at Rajkot (October 2 to 4) — before the crucial first Test at Ahmedabad from October 8 to 12.

The All Blacks' sports psychologist, Gilbert Enoke, joined the cricket team. He arrived in this port city on Thursday evening. Considering that skipper Stephen Fleming had said that "a tour of India is mentally very demanding", it certainly looks like Enoke, who has been working on and off with the cricket team for five years now, has a big role to play on this tour.

Enoke, who has been in the business of psychology for 20 years now, said, "motivating the guys in the tough Indian conditions is a huge challenge for me. You see, New Zealand has not won a series in India".

The concept of a psychologist is catching up in world cricket, what with the sport getting more and more professional, especially with the number of limited-overs Internationals being played.

The younger ones in the Kiwi side had their first taste of playing in front of the Indian crowd, with nearly 5000 spectators sitting patiently through the four inspections and bursting into a loud cheer when Virender Sehwag won the toss and opted to bat.

Play commenced only at 3 p.m. owing to overnight rain and the resultant wet ground condition. Showers some 45 minutes later, brought an end to the action. Play was officially called off at 4.30 p.m. The home side was 23 without loss at close.

The BP XI skipper obviously had the wet and slippery conditions of the outfield in mind and so chose to bat first. The visitor decided to keep out its spearhead Daryl Tuffey, all-rounder Jacob Oram and opener Richard Jones while new ball bowlers Michael Mason and Ian Butler had their first `go' on the tour.

The home side, on the other hand, dropped opener Wasim Jaffer and speedsters Tinu Yohannan and Amit Uniyal. And when Virender Sehwag walked out to open with Akash Chopra, it became clear that the National selection committee does not intend acceding to his request of dropping down the order.

Sehwag began with a spanking back foot punch to the fence off Mason, who gained a fair amount of bounce. Butler did not make the batsmen play enough to begin with, but soon got the right line, testing Chopra's concentration levels outside the off-stump.

The loss of a day's play was as much disheartening to the BP XI boys, especially the fringe players looking to gain entry or make a comeback into the National team.

Test star V.V.S. Laxman said he was looking to make the most of the contest. "Had it been of full duration, it would have given both the batsmen and the bowlers an equal opportunity to prove their mettle. I was hoping to get to bat twice. It is very frustrating to lose so much time," said the Hyderabadi stylist.

The Kiwis spent the morning playing football and throwing a baseball around while the homeboys were resting for most part of the day. The contest has now lost its competitive edge, unless, of course, something is contrived.

To make up for the lost time, it has been decided to advance the start by half an hour as well as extend play by half an hour over the next two days.

The scores:

Board President's XI: A. Chopra (batting) 9, V. Sehwag (batting) 9. Extras (nb-5): 5. Total (for no loss, in 10.1 overs) 23.

New Zealand bowling: Ian Butler 5-0-13-0, Michael Mason 3.1-1-9-0, Scott Styris 2-1-1-0.

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