Now for India’s Test matches in England this time around. There are five of them and the first one, to be hosted at Trent Bridge, does not start before the first week of August. The previous game India played was the ill-fated World Test Championship final, which began on 18 June. Time enough, perhaps, here for a lot of things to be got done and reviewed and then, done all over again. Scheduling wonders thus never cease but we know that India, Australia and England happen to make up the global game’s elite, with more money coming into it as a result of the frequency of the matches they play among themselves, never mind the others.
Word is that captain Virat Kohli had wanted some customary tour games ahead of the first Test but the England and Wales Cricket Board, so pally otherwise, was reported to have said no. Why? Unofficial nuggets of information suggest – and you are free to laugh out loud ~ that the fact that England’s domestic cricketers are not being forced into bio-secure bubbles nullifies the idea.
This, of course, gets you thinking about consensually determined itineraries but this is also part of those no-go areas in cricket which fact-finding people skirt adroitly and fact-hiding ones, imperiously nowadays. So two intra-squad practice matches in Durham had been spoken of before vague assurances of a game with a combined XI of county players came to be made.
Not that it persuaded everyone that two intra-squad exchanges would suffice ~ with Sunil Gavaskar, among others, saying that they would not ~ but a certain English inflexibility was being detected even in the altered arrangement, such as it was. That spawned a kind of anticipatory discomfort.
And recollections of England’s 1-3 defeat earlier this year in India, with its associated memories of the visitors being somewhat controversially licked to a splinter on spin-friendly wickets, had everything to do with it. Quite amusingly, the cerebral discomfiture, within the Indian team and outside, was not even a tiny speck over the distant horizon when Kohli and his peers set out for England with victory in the WTC final their initial objective.
The air was vibrant with optimism and the mood, unmistakably cheerful. India, now understandably anxious to get used to English conditions, chose to bypass Hanuma Vihari when deciding on their playing 11 for the match against New Zealand. Vihari, though, had been there since before the team’s arrival, playing for Warwickshire.