Kochi: Amidst the fear of rain playing spoilsport again after the abandonment of the first ODI in Bangalore on Saturday, India and Australia go into the second match in the seven-match Future Cup ODI series hoping for uninterrupted play and a 1-0 lead to gain psychological advantage, at the Nehru stadium here on Tuesday.
Not just the host Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) and curator P V Ramachandran, who had been fighting against the wet weather but also India pacer S Sreesanth, longing to play before his homeground, was keeping his fingers crossed.
Ramachandran and his counterpart from M A Chidambaram stadium in Chennai Parthasarthy have prepared what they described as a hard wicket and fought bravely to keep the ground conditions to the satisfaction of the BCCI.
''If there are just showers and a let up, we are fully prepared to make the ground fit for play, but if it rains for two or three hours heavily then we are helpless,'' the curators said.
The match, undoubtedly, was at the mercy of the Rain God.
Nets cancelled: Heavy showers today forced the cancellation of net practices of both the teams. And even as the ground staff, led by curators Ramachandran and Parthasarathy were battling to get the ground fit for play with the outfield still wet, sharp showers ruled out any practice besides driving the fear of the match itself being abandoned.
Admitting that it was a bit frustrating to have missed the nets, Team India manager Rajput said ''We had a team meeting and a session at the gym to stay prepared for the match.''
About the status of the injured Sourav Ganguly, who strained a hamstring while fielding in the first ODI at Bangalore, Rajput said the physio John Gloster was of the opinion that the former skipper would be fine if he was rested for a game. ''He will be back for the third match'', he added.
He said off spinner Harbhajan Singh, who could play a crucial role in the match if the wicket aids spin, was feeling better from a stiff neck. ''He worked in the gym and his neck is better now'', he explained.
''We have to see'', he said when asked about Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa.
The response to the match was commendable, with tickets for the galleries only remaining to be sold, according to KCA officials.
It remains to be seen if India would be playing both its spinners as skipper M S Dhoni had said after the Bangalore match.
Ponting, who was forced to sit out in the inaugural match due to injury, is more likely to play 'morrow. makeshift skipper Gilchrist said changes in the playing XI for the match would be considered before the toss. ''We will decide based on the conditions tomorrow,'' he said, adding the wicket could assist the spinners unlike the one at Bangalore which was conducive to fast bowlers.
If the wicket turns slow and the ball does not come on to the bat, in the words of the curator, the team batting first would be under pressure.
India had defeated the Aussies in 1998, South Africa in 2000, Zimbabwe in March 2002, Pakistan in April 2005 and England in April 2006.
The teams would also be going into what would be the 85th ODI match between the two countries. It may be recalled that while the Aussies had won 51 of them, including 24 in Australia and 15 in India, India have won 12 in India, six Down Under and nine on neutral venues. Six matches, including the first ODI in this series in Bangalore, have had no result.
India: M S Dhoni (Capt), Yuvraj Singh (Vice-Captain), Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthick, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Ramesh Powar, R P Singh, Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (Capt), Adam Gilchrist (Vice-Captain), Mathew Hayden, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin, Ben Hilfenhaus, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Mike Hussey, Mitchel Johnson, Brett Lee, Andrew Symonds and J Hopes.