You can feel the excitement and air of expectancy building with this team. On the morning of the game against Chandigarh Lions, I open my door to find 13 of the 14 urine samples waiting to be tested. I know that it is a long bow to pull, but you know as a fitness coach when the players do this that they are motivated. They are switched on and ready for the game to start. After breakfast I take the team through our now familiar activation session involving stretching and a light pool session. This wakes the players up and gets them moving rather than just sitting around playing a game of cricket in their minds a countless number of times before they have even left the hotel.
The day seems to fly by and before long we are arriving at Panchkula for our game against the Chandigarh Lions. It is a very important game. Win this, and our finals chances are very much alive – the Lions are ahead of us on the points table with a game in hand. Lose and it’s pretty much over. Not that this is mentioned of course. Everyone knows what is at stake.
The ground here is in fantastic order and the organisers have set things up for the crowd – right down to a jumping castle for the young kids. The screen here is much bigger than at any other of the grounds that we have played at. I am rapt to meet the caterer and see that he has met our food requirements.
The food has been prepared as requested and is available to the players just outside of our room. As I move around the dressing area I can sense the excitment amongst the players.
The Warriors fielded first. The Lions got off to a great start and rushed out to 23 runs off the first two overs. Fortunately, Dhaka was able to dismiss an opposition player in each of the next three overs. By the 10th over, Chandigarh were 4 for 69. By the end of their innings, they had scored 137 runs.
During the break, one could sense that the players knew that they had a great chance of winning this game.
The Dhaka innings started very conservatively with just 2 runs in the first over. By the 10th, the Warriors were 1 for 59 (which was 10 runs behind Chandigarh at the same point in their innings). From that time though, the Warriors just moved ahead exceeding 138 runs by the 18th over. In the end it was a strong win that has kept the Dhaka Warriors in finals contention with two games to go.
Man of the match was Shahriar Nafees from the Warriors. His overall performance was outstanding – he took the first catch of the night and scored a total of 73 runs (not out). It was also Nafees’s wedding anniversary on the night, so this was at least a nice way to celebrate – even though his wife (Eshita) was a long way from the ground watching on TV in Bangladesh! Nafees is the vice captain of the side and is a very professional and considered man. He has a great relationship with all of the players and is often the voice of reason post games and training. He is very keen to improve and has been working hard over the past month or so to get the Warriors as far as possible in this tournament.
Saturday was the 1st November and, as has become the mode of operation following a game, my first duty for the day is an extra session for those players who did not play the previous night. The session consisted of a gym circuit for Monjural Islam and Golam Mabud (Shishir) and some extra running/technique work for Farhad Reza. When the rest of the team arrive for recovery, we all head off to a local park. At the park the whole team participated in a match review session and then broke into two teams for a game of soccer. After the game, we spent about 10 minutes stretching and offered an optional pool session. The rest of the day was free for the players and they decided to take in a Bollywood film. They asked me to go, but three hours of singing and dancing in Hindi is a bit much for me to even think about, let alone sit through. I end up doing some work in my room and doing a bit of shopping for a computer cable later in the day. The evening is a lazy one of sitting back and watching some in-house movies.
Sunday has a training session scheduled at Chandigarh’s premier cricket facility. Last year a one day game was played here between Australia and India – the scoreboard still has the signage in place from the game. Another nice touch around the ground is a number of trees that have been planted by various test cricketers from around the world. There is an Australian section with trees planted by Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and others. The session that is done here is restricted to the nets. With a game against Ahmedabad Rockets the following day, it is important to keep the session fairly light.
Game day goes through what is now a familiar routine – team meeting; team activation session; lunch; team to the ground; team warm up and then into the game.
The games start at 7.30pm and are pretty much totally designed for television. The game for the Warriors tonight is crucial – and puts us within touching of playing in the finals. A loss – and it’s all just about over.
Dhaka bat first and get off to a great start. By the 5th over the team is averaging 10 runs an over. This run rate slows a bit over the next 5 or so overs and when we lost our 4th wicket, our run rate had fallen to 8.4 runs per over. The next 6 overs saw a lift and the team finished the twenty overs with a handy 181 runs (9.05 runs per over).
Ahmedabad were very competitive through the first half of their innings but could not maintain the pressure in the final overs. They fell short of the Warriors total by 15 runs and delivered to Dhaka our 4th win. Whilst it must be remembered that the opposition still have a game to play, the team returns to the hotel in second place on the ladder. Our final game of this series will be against the Lahore Badshahs (Pakistan). It is very possible that this game will decide who out of Dhaka or Lahore takes the 4th and final place, in the finals series. This will all depend on the outcome of several games over the next 3 days.
As I complete typing this blog I can hear the coach and staff laughing in the room across the hall. I want to get this posted so you can keep up with what’s going on for me here in India. I also have to pack my bag – something I am getting pretty used to now. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we leave for Ahmedabad for our game on Friday. It is to be a long day of travel with a 4 hour stopover in Mumbai. Even the thought of it makes me tired!