India in Australia 2011-12 December 23, 2011

Laxman impressed with seamers' fitness

100

The first thing you notice at India's nets at the MCG is that Zaheer Khan has come back a leaner man, going all out during the training session, watching Umesh Yadav closely, discussing his action before going on to bowl again. Ishant Sharma is bowling too, though not as many overs as Zaheer and Yadav, but still a fair share. Ishant's ankle is still strapped, but there seems to be no talk of a replacement being called up from India.

There is general optimism around the Indian camp. Ishant turns around and laughs when he hears a TV reporter say in his piece-to-camera, done in close vicinity of the nets, that Ishant's ankle remains India's main worry and that his selection decision will be made on the morning of the Test, three days from now. Yadav and Zaheer continue to have a discussion around his action, between deliveries. Eric Simmons, the bowling coach, looks relieved too.

After the debacle in England, especially when it came to fast bowlers' fitness, you can't be sure until they have played the whole series, but after the initial scare with Ishant's ankle they seem to have recovered. After walking off in the first practice game, and then missing the first innings of the second, Ishant came back to bowl on the last day in Canberra.

"Ishant didn't finish the first practice game in Canberra," VVS Laxman said, "but the way he bowled in the second innings of the (Cricket Australia) Chairman's XI in the second match, and also the way he bowled today at the nets is proof that they are both fit and raring to go."

Laxman was also referring to Zaheer. His injury on the opening day of the Lord's Test this July was one of the big turning points of the series. Andrew Flintoff had immediately tweeted that if Zaheer didn't come back to bowl, that could be the series to England. In his time out of the team, though, Zaheer seems to have worked hard on his rehabilitation. It is hard to miss, especially in comparison with the shape he went to England in.

"When you are playing the international game, injuries become part and parcel of a player's life," Laxman said. "If you see, even the Australians are missing their frontline bowlers because of the injuries. But it's good to see the way Zaheer Khan has come back after his ankle surgery. He is lean and fit, and you can see he has really worked hard on his fitness."

India's other concern on overseas tours of late has been the lack of time to prepare, but this time the team came to Australia well in advance and got two tour games apart from the general nets and acclimatisation. Laxman, though, believes that the time they have been able to spend as a team in Australia has been equally important.

"Last time we had one side game against Victoria team but it was rained out, so we directly went to a Test match without preparation," Laxman said. "So we are quite happy with the way we have prepared. Also we are able to spend a lot of time together, especially with the one-day boys who have recovered from the tough schedule they had. I think it was quite good the way we spend around 10 days in Canberra and we are quite happy with our preparations, and hopefully we can start performing from the word go."

India aren't used to feeling so good before the overseas tour, even though this should be par for the course. They had to deal with such fitness worries in the lead-up to each of their last three tours. However, the indications right now are that as Boxing Day approaches, they are getting more and more confident about the availability of their first three bowling choices - Zaheer, Ishant and Yadav - and also about the time they have spent in local conditions.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • g.narsimha on December 25, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    DAVEBROWN, You must be kidding when did SHANEWARNE was a threate to INDIANS, plcheck ,he averages more than 50 per indian wicket INDIANS yust treated him as a club level bowler how ever i love him he was terror to all except indians, particulerly to poms,when we perfom you people start saying .that in absence of A,B ORC our bats men scored ,as if those figures doesnt count ,if indias wins in INDIA it doesnt count for you peole , only wins in your backyard counts ,what agreate logic..

  • zenboomerang on December 25, 2011, 3:11 GMT

    @Chris_P ... Thanks... And agree with your comments - Johnson needs to work on his bowling action & only SS or County cricket will do that... Think the Indian bowlers will come out firing but hard pitches & back to back Tests will put a strain on them... The curator @MCG says it will be 'lively' on the 1st day then calm down so hope Clarke takes notice & remembers last MCG pitch...

  • dummy4fb on December 24, 2011, 15:59 GMT

    i keep reading how well India done in Oz in 2003. Having looked at the scoreboards it is not a surprise. The bowling attack used is probably weaker than the current one! Gillespie 3 tests, Bracken 2, Lee 2, MacGill 4, Bichel 2, and Williams 2. Yes, no Warne, no McGrath, Whilst Lee and Gillespie didn't even play in all four matches. So, okay, you did well against a second string Oz bowling line up; Hardly playing the invincible like a lot have been suggesting. If Warne, McGrath, Lee and Gillespie had all played the whole series 2003 would have been the same as every other time India have toured Australia.

  • screamingeagle on December 24, 2011, 15:04 GMT

    Thats right Randyoz, keep living on past glories.The way you are going, it might be a while before you win a series. 47 all out...now that is hilarious.

  • Kewal999 on December 24, 2011, 14:50 GMT

    Everyone's worried about the fitness of India's opening bowlers, but this series, the performance of India's opening batsmen is going to be equally critical if not more.They performed poorly against England and look what happend to rest of the so called greatest batting line-up in the world. Sehwag's form can never be predicted, but Gambhir's form is worrisome.

  • RandyOZ on December 24, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    Hilarious that every comment coming from Indian fans manages to avoid the fact that they have NEVER won a series in Oz, yeh that's right, NEVER. Just want to remind everyone of that. Hilarious.

  • ssenthil on December 24, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    @Raashid Shah, This year current leading wicket taker is Ashok Dinda at the end of all league matches. 37 wickets in 6 Matches and finished the year with top having taken a 10 for against Irfan Pathan's Baroda in Baroda home ground, were Irfan Pathan returned wicket-less. Now who bowled better? Ashok Dinda or Irfan Pathan?

  • bolerocf on December 24, 2011, 12:11 GMT

    India are missing Varun Aaaron (the fastest bowler in India), Sreesanth and Praveen Kumar in the test series due to injury. The 3 aforementioned are far better bowlers than trundlers Mithun and Vinay Kumar. Even Irfan Pathan is a better pick than Vinay Kumar.

  • Naresh28 on December 24, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    @ken Atkinson how can you comment on future Indian Team whEN YOU HAVE NOT SEEN OR heard of some of the youngsters waiting to take over from the big three. These younsters are waiting. India won the emrging players tournament in Australia a few months ago. So young talent is there.There are so many batsman waiting not enough slots. Rohit Sharma and Kohli are actually part of the team right now. There is Pujara, Pandey,Badrinath,Rahane etc. Pace bowlers are less but there is some there. Spinners there is Rahul Sharma, Jadeja, and a few others to mention.

  • endoftest on December 24, 2011, 11:33 GMT

    @arun_padmanabhan , rightly said ...no need to cry for irfan pathan....if he is not in the squad means he is not there ....we need to support the people in the squad and hope they come out good. @Raashid Shah , just taking more wickets cannot be a criteria. Some times bowlers get wickets because of batsmen's mistake, umpire's courtesy and offcourse fielders alertness ....

  • No featured comments at the moment.