Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi greets India vice- captain Virat Kohli during their training session at the Eden Gardens
India might have had their problems against spin but that is exactly what the Indian batsmen chose to face at the nets ahead of the high-voltage World T20 clash against Pakistan.
In India’s lung-opener at Nagpur, New Zealand were able to spin a web around the Indians. On a turning track India failed to chase down the opponents total of 126 and were bowled out for a paltry 79. The New Zealand spinners accounted for nine Indian batsmen with Mitchell Santner picking up 4/11.
Two days later, the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh took guard against the tweakers in the side at the net sessions here. Both batsmen clubbed a few big ones some of which landed in the stands putting unsuspecting fans in danger. Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja all rolled their arms over and bowled to the duo for around 30 minutes. Dhoni and Yuvraj took turns to face them.
India’s middle order talisman and team’s deputy Virat Kohli had a go as well at the nets. The 27-year-old looked in good touch and smashed anything which was short or too full.
Later, he came out in shorts to hit a few throw downs. “We will relook on our batting approach after the World Cup. Not the right time to have a look at it. It is now about fine tuning the strategies and trusting them going into the game. We just cannot change the whole lot,” off-spinners Ravichandran Ashwin had said in the pre-match media conference.
All the other Indian batsmen and bowlers had their sessions too. The pacers, however, bowled only a few overs.
A noteworthy fact was Harbhajan sweating it out for around an hour. The veteran tweaker who has impressed in games against Pakistan before might play in the contest . Earlier in the day, Dhoni along with team director Ravi Shastri had a word with former India captain and Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Sourav Ganguly while looking at the Eden strip.
“The wicket will be a sporting one, where even if you score 180 it is not safe,” Ganguly had told the media. Pitch-in-charge Sujon Mukherjee echoed the same sentiments. “It will be a flat wicket with lots of runs.”
Meanwhile , Speeches, rendering of national anthems of India and Pakistan, songs and felicitation of former cricketing greats would set the ball rolling at the Eden Gardens as arch-rivals India and Pakistan clash in a World Twenty20 match on March 19.
The evening would begin with cricket legends Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Imran Khan, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Intikhab Alam and Inzamam-ul Haq and Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan entering the ground in a procession.
The cricketing legends will be felicitated and presented mementoes with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and Tendulkar, Imran and Bachchan will give speeches.
At 7.25 p.m. Amitabh and Pakistani classical singer Shafaqat Amanat Ali will render the national anthems of the two countries.
High Commissioner of Pakistan to India Abdul Basit, Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shahryar Khan, Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, and host of lcoal businessmen and film personalities would be present at the stadium, which is certain to be packed to capacity.
With sand bunkers and watch towers at strategic locations, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) keeping a tab and deployment of over 3000 security personnel, Eden Gardens will turn into a fortress with multiple security rings for the high-octane India-Pakistan World Twenty20 clash on Saturday.
With West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee herself writing to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) assuring foolproof security, the city police have walked the extra mile to ensure smooth conduct of the match where a host of high profile guests including diplomats and cricketing greats will be present to witness the arch-rivals clashing at the hallowed stadium.
A strong army of 2,200 constables and nearly 1000 inspectors and sub-inspectors would be deployed to form security layers in and around the stadium with as many as 21 deputy commissioners and 44 assistant commissioners supervising the various layers.
The city police’s joint commissioners, additional commissioners and the special commissioner will supervise the entire security arrangement.
In the wake of threats to disrupt the match and dig up the Eden pitch from certain quarters, the city police will be deploying a special anti-sabotage squad.
“The anti-sabotage squad will be constantly monitoring the stadium to prevent any kind of sabotage. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be employed for surveillance,” said a city police officer.
Nine watch towers, 11 sand bunkers and five police assistance booths have been put up at strategic locations and three Quick Response Teams (QRTs) will be on standby to tackle any kind of exigency.