Aussies wait on XI in sodden Kolkata

Captain Steve Smith holds off on naming team for second ODI as ground staff work feverishly

Australia will wait until they arrive at Eden Gardens on Thursday to finalise their XI for the second ODI against India after ground staff worked feverishly in the hope of defying Kolkata's monsoon season and readying the ground for play.

Around 75 workers used a rare moment of sunshine on Wednesday morning to work on the centre wicket, the practice pitches and the outfield after days of persistent rain had hampered their preparations.

As the clouds cleared, the vast canvas sheets that covered the entire ground were peeled back to reveal an immaculate looking playing surface. It allowed just enough time for the Australian players and coaches to inspect the pitch and for ground staff to ensure none of the water that had pooled on the covers ended up on the outfield.

Buckets, brooms, towels and chamois were all used as a super-sopper did laps of the ground, while a team of around 20 employees relied on tiny pieces of cloth to painstakingly wipe down some of the 60,000 seats at the historic venue.

Ground staff hard at work at Eden Gardens //
Ground staff hard at work at Eden Gardens //

After a small puddle of water seemingly leaked onto the outfield on the eastern side of the ground, a team of five bare-foot staff laid down small towels, stood upon them and briskly walked on the spot in the hope of soaking up the excess moisture. Like a poorly organised and stationary group of soldiers marching out of sync, they continued unabated for 10 minutes, stopping only to wring their dripping cloths into a bucket before recommencing their jig.

But having worked tirelessly for around 40 minutes, the ground staff had to undo a lot of their good work when a short shower arrived. The covers were dragged back into place and there they stayed for the rest of the day, save for a brief period in the early afternoon when the pitch was revealed again to allow India captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri a brief look at the 22 yards in the middle.

The Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), the governing body for Eden Gardens, was slammed in 2015 when a match between India and South Africa was abandoned without a ball being bowled after staff failed to adequately clear the ground following a 30-minute downpour five hours before the scheduled start of play.

The stadium has since upgraded its drainage system and hosted a game between India and Pakistan at the 2016 World T20 just hours after rain hit the city.

And the ground staff's impressive display on Wednesday morning gave rise to hopes that if rain does intervene on Thursday, the playing surface will be quickly prepared for a resumption once the downfall ceases.

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A clear Wednesday evening and an improved forecast for Thursday afternoon and night means there's further optimism that there will be no repeat of Sunday's series opener in Chennai, when Australia's run chase was reduced to just 21 overs. 

Despite the fact the centre wicket has been covered for most of this week, Aussie skipper Steve Smith was impressed with what he saw in the morning.

"There's a little bit of grass on it, probably more than I've seen in India for a while," he said.

"It looks alright. There's a few cracks up and down the wicket but I don't think they'll play a big part. It looks like the wicket has been used somewhere; I'm not sure what game, but it's a used wicket.

"We'll have another look tomorrow, see what the weather is doing and see if there are any changes to the wicket in the morning. (The curator) might give it a bit of a roll, he might even cut it.

"We'll have another look in the morning and decide our team then."

A green surface and overcast conditions could convince selector-on-duty Mark Waugh to opt for a third frontline seamer in South Australian Kane Richardson to complement Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile after both James Faulkner and Adam Zampa were targeted by India's batsmen in Chennai.

Smith decided against re-jigging his batting line-up for their shortened run chase on Sunday, but he said he would consider making changes if the weather intervenes again in Kolkata.

India go 1-0 up after rain-affected ODI opener

However, he said his team would arrive at Eden Gardens on Thursday expecting to play a full match.

"It's certainly something to think about," he said.

"To begin with we'll turn up tomorrow and expect to be playing 50 overs (each side) and if things change from there, we've got to adapt and do what needs to be done."

Australia's Qantas Tour of India

Australia ODI squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.

Australia T20 squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Jason Behrendorff, Dan Christian, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Patrick Cummins, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.

India squad (first three ODIs): Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma (vc), KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami.

ODI Fixtures

September 17: MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

September 21: Eden Gardens, Kolkata

September 24: Holkar Cricket Stadium, Indore

September 28: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru

October 1: VCA Stadium, Nagpur

T20 Fixtures

October 1: JSCA International Stadium, Ranchi

October 10: Barsapara Stadium, Guwahati

October 13: Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad