In the two days leading up to the fourth Test at the Queen’s Park Oval, rain has hit Port of Spain either before or during India’s practice sessions, sending them into the indoor nets. On Wednesday afternoon, during the second half of West Indies’ practice session on the eve of the match, it rained again, and kept raining for over two hours.
Rain washed out close to four sessions of the second Test, and an entire day’s play in the third. It is likely to interrupt play, by all appearances frequently, in the fourth Test as well. The weather isn’t in either team’s control, and Virat Kohli, India’s captain, said his team would need to ensure they didn’t lose their intensity if there are frequent rain interruptions in Port of Spain.
“Sometimes when you have too many interruptions, some people tend to think they can relax, but I think you require more concentration in an interrupted game,” he said. “When there are no breaks you can plan according to how the game will go for five or four days. But with breaks your plans and concentration will be disrupted very quickly.
“The term that people say – ‘switch off and switch on’ – I think that is the most important factor in an interrupted game. That’s what a cricketer has to master pretty quickly in his career, because these sort of games you don’t want a situation where you’re not 100% into a game if you get interruptions. It’s challenging, but when it happens you have to make sure that you get a hang of this as well, because it does happen quite often, especially in Test cricket.”
By the time the Test match gets underway, rain may have affected the preparation of the pitch as well. On Tuesday, two days before the game, it had looked noticeably drier than the surfaces that staged the first three Tests, a pale yellow colour with a smattering of coarse grass and small cracks all over.
Ronald Faria, the curator, said this was because he had needed to exercise caution while watering the pitch, mindful that there may not be enough sunshine to permit the regular amount of watering. He said he was keeping a careful eye on the weather, and was watering the surface just enough to ensure it retained the optimum level of moisture – with his key going in about an eighth of an inch and no more – on the first morning.
India seldom reveal their line-up on the eve of a Test match, but the team management by then has usually decided the combination they will play. On Wednesday, however, Kohli said they would keep their options open given the uncertainty over what conditions they would find at the toss.
“I had a look [at the pitch] yesterday, there were a few damp spots,” he said. “Covers came on pretty quickly today, so I don’t know how much that has dried up. We’re obviously going to name a few more than eleven and take a call tomorrow as to what the best combination is.
“Apart from the damp spots, the surface looks pretty dry. [It] Should have turn and bounce, that’s the feeling I got, but if we have rain for the next three days on and off, I’m sure the seamers will get much more assistance. Even in the side nets today, the seamers did get a lot of assistance. So as I said, we’ll have to keep enough players in the squad for us to change last-minute according to what the weather conditions are like and how much the wicket is going to stay under covers.”
West Indies played four seamers and used the allrounder Roston Chase as their main spinner in the third Test in St Lucia. The dryness of the surface and the history of spin-friendly pitches at Queen’s Park Oval could prompt them to leave out one of their quicks and recall the legspinner Devendra Bishoo, but their captain Jason Holder said they had not made a decision yet.
“Not quite sure yet,” Holder said. “Yesterday, I saw the wicket, looks pretty dry, a bit of grass on it as well, you know, so it’s probably a good possibility that you’d probably see a change in the squad, but I haven’t sat down and met the selectors yet. At the end of the day, they have the final say, and we’ll go and see what happens.”
Weather permitting, it will be interesting to see how the teams approach this situation, and the conditions they might encounter – a pitch that looks like it might help the spinners, and atmospheric conditions that could help the seamers.