Indians are set to take on host West Indies at Sabina Park

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | BharatSundaresan | Kingston | Updated: Jun 30 2013, 22:05pm hrs
Tucked away in the rural confines of Franklyn Town, one of the notorious eastern suburbs of Kingston, Kensington Cricket Club (KCC) is located in an area that even the locals call 'unsafe'. Guns are commonplace in this part of Jamaica's capital and there are many around who aren't shy of using them.

The roads leading up to KCC are bumpy, narrow and filled with potholes with a number of shadowy characters lining up the sidewalks and footpaths. The club, which is the second oldest in the country, had an eerie look about it on Friday afternoon, more so with the cricket fans away at Sabina Park, some 20 minutes up the main road, trying to get into the stadium to watch West Indies take on Sri Lanka.

Despite the reputation of the place, and the match happening nereby, there were people in attendence at the KCC premises, the bunch having waited all day to catch a glimpse of Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co.

A rickety bus carrying the Indian team rolled into the paltry parking area of the club and not long after, the air around KCC was resonating with the tunes of Punjabi and Hindi music, which blared out of the surprisingly powerful Ipod speakers of one of the players.

The world champions were finally in the house and they were not only making some noise, they were also trying their best to convert KCC into their home base. The high-pitched tones of Daler Mahendi and Lucky Ali left the locals wondering what the lyrics meant, but leaving masseur Ramesh Mane in-charge of the music, the rest of the team soon descended upon the manicured field of KCC for their customary warm-up football face-off.

On Sunday, the Indians are set to take on the hosts in their first encounter of the Celkon tri-series at Sabina Park. After England, the opportunity to get rid of the sweaters and enter a practice facility sporting shorts was bliss for many players.

Fresh from their Champions Trophy triumph, the bonhomie amongst the team members was very evident. It's not for nothing that they say that a winning team is a happy team. Even the generally glum-faced Duncan Fletcher let his hair down and indulged in some banter with his boys.

While the players went about kicking the ball, Fletcher, always the technician, was even seen giving goalkeeping tips to Murali Vijay before breaking into laughter. So taken in were the support staff by the Fletcher's uncharacteristic show of emotion that one even lifted the burly coach off his feet.

Feasting and fasting

Football session done, the Indians drifted away in pairs towards the dressing-room. Ishant Sharma was providing a briefing to his protg Bhuvneshwar Kumar regarding diet control and how the consumption of sugar-based products enhanced your stamina when bowling long spells. Kumar gave his two pennies' worth, relating from his own experiences with the India A team in the Caribbean last year, about how even net bowlers can prove to be menacing in these parts. The rest of the team was busy feasting on the local mangoes provided to them at the KCC.

Then the net session got underway. And coach Fletcher too returned to his more characteristic warden-like pose. He went back to discussing technique and body balance with Vijay, this time though, in terms of his footwork, and with bat in hand.

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma then strode out to the centre with the left-hander providing another display of the incredible form he has been in, middling almost every single delivery he faced.

Though he pulled up with what looked like a hamstring niggle soon after, it wasn't too worrisome as physio Nitin Patel eased his concerns with ice-packs and a rub-down.

After the nets wound down, talk in the dressing-room turned to topics ranging from the various versions of his name that Bengal pacer Shami Ahmed (who replaced Irfan Pathan from the CLT20 squad) has had to deal with, to which batsman had hit the 52-year-old net bowler on show the farthest.

NO BREAKS

With the schedule for the tri-series packed with hardly any breaks, a number of players spent their spare time making plans for their free time between matches. With strict security protocols and curfews in place, some couldn't help but lament how they'll have to miss out on the more attractive locales that Jamaica has to offer up in the North Country.

Come Sunday though the fun and games might have to take a backseat and the No.1 ODI team in the world will have to bring their 'A' game to the table, especially after the hosts began their campaign on a convincing note.

The West Indies looked eager to make a great impression in front of their home fans with local boy Chris Gayle leading the way against the Sri Lankans. And they will certainly come hard at the world champions. Camaraderie aside, Dhoni & Co too will be looking to kick-off their tournament on a convincing note by continuing their dominating run from England.