It has been a bitterly cold winter in New Delhi, with Friday night (January 4) recording the lowest minimum temperature in the last six years at 2.7 degree Celsius. Saturday was marginally better with the sun making a feeble appearance towards the second half of the day, but as darkness set in, the temperature dropped again. More of the same was expected on Sunday, when India and Pakistan do battle in the final One-Day International.
There's a fair presence in the Indian squad of players born in the north of the country, who have had experience of severe cold, but Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that this was amongst his three coldest experiences as a cricketer. "We have played in slightly colder conditions earlier," said Dhoni on Saturday afternoon. "The coldest we played in was in Ireland was 2007. I am not sure what the temperature was then, but it was very windy so we really felt the cold.
"Then, during the IPL in South Africa (2009), Bloemfontein was one venue which was very cold, close to zero degrees. After that, I think this has to be the coldest. The thing is that players need to adapt quickly to the cold because the temperature difference is a lot when compared to Chennai and Kolkata (the venue for the first two ODIs). Let's hope for the best; hopefully no one will fall ill because today was the first proper exposure to the cold during the practice session. It looks good as of now but it will be tough."
And how does one adapt to the cold? "Hand-warmers, to start with," replied Dhoni. "Have some pullovers, skins, something, anything."
The cold, Dhoni said, could have an impact on whether he plays on Sunday or not. Dhoni pulled up with a sore back during fielding drills on Saturday, though he did have a hit in the nets, and Dinesh Karthik has been summoned as cover. "We were doing this fielding drill over three stations and was at the last station when something happened," explained Dhoni as he spoke of how he sustained the injury. The third station involved sequentially picking up five balls placed at different positions over a small oval-shaped portion of the outfield and hitting the stumps some distance away. Dhoni left the field after just one rotation following a quick word with Trevor Penney, the fielding coach. "Let's see how it shapes up in the morning, it's very cold so we will see how it (the back) is tomorrow."
Misbah-ul-Haq seemed less perturbed by the weather. "Obviously, compared to Chennai and Kolkata, there will be a bit of a difference," said Misbah. "But we played three-four matches in Lahore in similar circumstances in extreme cold, that was excellent practice. The players have an idea of what to expect, and the experience of having played in such conditions recently. I think that will come in handy tomorrow."