London: India coach Ravi Shastri insisted there was nothing underhand about his side’s decision to reduce their scheduled four-day match against Essex starting Wednesday to a three-day game.
This is the only first-class fixture India will play before next week’s first Test of a five-match series against England at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
There had been speculation that India’s unusual move had been made in response to being provided with green practice pitches at Chelmsford which, with England in the middle of a heatwave, may bare little resemblance to the surface they encounter for the first Test.
But Shastri was adamant the reason the tourists’ management wanted a day lopped off the Essex fixture was because they believed it would be more beneficial if India, who have already played Twenty20 and one-day international series in England this trip, had an extra day of training at Edgbaston instead.
“(We are) getting in there, into the Test match venue, because it wouldn’t have served the purpose here (Chelmsford),” Shastri told travelling Indian media in comments reported by the ESPNCricinfo website.
“Instead of an extra day here, I think an extra day (of training) there would be more valuable.”
“More familiarity with the venue and the conditions where you are playing the first Test,” the former India all-rounder added. “If we had played four days here we would have lost that one day there because of travel.”
Shastri insisted India were happy with the practice facilities at Chelmsford.
“There was no complaints from the Indian management about anything,” he said.
“On this entire trip, you will never see an Indian team giving excuses as regards to conditions or the pitch.
“Our challenge is to beat them. We take pride in performing wherever we go. We want to be the best travelling side in the word.
“So the last person who will make a complaint will be this Indian team.”
To emphasise his point, Shastri highlighted a conversation he had with the Essex groundsman about the condition of the match pitch on Tuesday.
“The groundsman (asked) do you want the grass to be taken off? I said absolutely not,” explained Shastri. “It is your prerogative. What you give, we play.”
Essex, who will refund supporters who had purchased tickets for Saturday’s fourth day, suggested the current high temperatures in England — figures of 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) had been forecast for Chelmsford on Wednesday — were also a factor in India’s decision.
“As a result of India’s five-Test series against England during August and September, and the current high temperatures, the match will now take place on Wednesday 25-Friday 27 July,” said a club statement.
Meanwhile, against an under-strength side — Australia fast bowler Peter Siddle was among those rested by Essex — India were 322 for six at stumps.
Four batsmen struck fifties, Dinesh Karthik top-scoring with 82 not out and captain Virat Kohli making 68.
KL Rahul (58) and Murali Vijay (53) also spent time in the middle.