England are on alert because of concerns about the state of the stadium in Dharmashala, where they plan to kick-off their World Cup campaign against Bangladesh on Tuesday.
Concerns are growing over the suitability of the picturesque HPCA stadium on the edge of the Himalayas, with the loose, sandy outfield posing a potential safety risk for players.
The venue hosted the first match of the tournament on Saturday, with Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman lucky to escape uninjured after his knee hit the turf as he slipped to avoid a boundary.
Former England batsman Jonathan Trott, now Afghanistan’s head coach, said after the game that the players were “uncertain” and that Mujeeb had been lucky to avoid serious injury.
It is understood Trott has been in touch with friends in the England camp to share his thoughts in more detail and they got a close look themselves during a training session on Sunday.
International Cricket Council Pitch Advisor Andy Atkinson and Events Director Chris Tetley were also present and had a chat with the head groundsman as they assessed the conditions.
An ICC spokesman told the PA news agency: “The process for assessing the condition of the pitch and outfield rests with match officials as part of the ICC pitch and outfield monitoring process and the outfield at Dharamshala was rated as average following the Afghanistan v Bangladesh match .”
“In addition, the ICC’s independent pitch consultant inspected the outfield today and is happy with the conditions, as is Javagal Srinath, the umpire for the next match.”
There are three ratings that fall below the “average” rating for the site: subpar, poor and unsuitable.
Jonny Bairstow made it clear that England were aware of the situation and suggested they might need to exercise some caution on the pitch to avoid trouble.
“There’s been a lot of talk about it, hasn’t there? “Touch Wood, we have no major incidents,” he said.
“The last thing you want is two guys out with knee injuries or something like that. Getting your elbows stuck in the ground while diving can also affect your shoulders. But it’s like the playing field is different from venue to venue, you just have to adapt to it.
“When you’re out on the field with spikes on, you obviously realize what you can and can’t do. Maybe it’s just because you’re a little more skilled at boxing.
“People need to make sure you do everything you can to make sure those areas — calves, Achilles — are loose and can handle the stresses of a sand-based outfield.”
“But I think it’s one of those where it’s going to be very difficult to hold someone back if they see a ball and try to stop it – it’s a natural reaction to go for it.”
The uncertainty makes it virtually unimaginable that Ben Stokes would be risked. He missed England’s heavy defeat against New Zealand due to a left hip problem and will be assessed daily.
He returned to the nets for the first time in ten days and battled throws and sidearms from fielding coach Carl Hopkinson for about half an hour, but appeared uncomfortable at times. He later did some light running and jogged gently for another five minutes, but still seemed far from competitive.
For Bairstow, the game against Bangladesh will be his 100th ODI appearance. The 34-year-old will become the sixth member of the squad to reach the milestone alongside Jos Buttler, Joe Root, Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, bringing up his century 12 years after an eye-catching Cardiff debut.
“I am very proud to have played 100 games. There have been a few ups and downs since my debut in 2011, right? But to reach this milestone and join this club is a big achievement,” he said.
“Playing my 100th World Cup match for India after winning it in 2019 and playing a good part in it, the journey this white-ball team has taken is something I am immensely proud of.”
England could look to add an extra seamer to the eleven defeated in Ahmedabad, with left-armer Reece Topley pushing for inclusion as a possible replacement for spin-bowling all-rounder Moeen Ali.