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Alagappan Muthu in Dhaka
June 14, 2014
Suresh Raina, the India captain, was swift to defend the squad he has been charged with for the three ODIs against Bangladesh. Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Amit Mishra are the only ones in the squad to have played in India's last 50-over game against a Full Member, but Raina stressed the selectors had to consider India's calendar ahead.
"I don't think they took the series lightly. The England tour is coming up and so few of the players are rested," Raina said. "If you look at the side, all the players have done well in the IPL and first-class cricket. The World Cup is coming up and you need to try a lot of players. I think it is a good opportunity for youngsters to do really well in this series and see how it goes in upcoming matches.
"I think the Bangladesh captain said we are coming with the A team. We are playing between two countries. It's really important for us to play fearless cricket. A lot of our players have done really well and I think the series is a good platform, to cement their places in the team."
And there are vacancies to be targeted. India look settled at the top of an innings, but the middle order is far from decided. The space between Virat Kohli at No.3 and MS Dhoni at No. 6 courts several contenders. Cheteshwar Pujara will try to convince the selectors of his fluency in limited-overs cricket. Raina will look to regain some trust after a lean spell. Ajinkya Rahane will want to mend his iffy strike-rate of 68.78 in 10 innings batting between Nos. 3 and 7. Ambati Rayudu will hunt for the innings that makes people stand up and take notice and Manoj Tiwary will need to prove his fitness as much as his talent.
During a practice session, Duncan Fletcher, the coach, conveyed he would like five minutes with all the new guys. Two of them were in the middle of batting practice. Kedar Jadhav, another contender in the middle-order scrum, was having good success smothering a spinner, a healthy skill to manoeuvre runs without taking too much risk. Beside him, Tiwary was punching through the covers and lofting down the ground. Clarity at the crease was what he wanted - going right back or right forward.
"When I was out of the squad, it was because of my knee injury and not poor form," Tiwary had said. "Just before that I had scored a hundred for India A against Australia. So once I was match-fit, I knew my time would come." His belief has paid off, but the management will now demand performance. After two years in the wilderness due to a spate of injuries, he will want that for himself.
In the adjoining net, Pujara was trying to gain a leg up in the race, polishing his bowling skills. He ran up sedately and landed a loopy legspinner on middle and off. As the batsman defended, Pujara willed his wrists to impart greater rip. He got back to his mark and the process continued - the odd and exaggerated roll of the wrist and flighted deliveries on middle - until the end of training.
Pujara has been eager to assist India's plans for 2015 and had advertised an interest in bowling to help gain a permanent spot in the XI. His control was promising but not threatening and the effort he put in epitomised what his captain desired.
"Some players are coming back to the Indian team, some are getting their chance to play. It's important to stick to together," Raina said. "It is a short tour for us, seven days, three one-dayers and no gaps in between. You have to plan very well and work really hard."
The lure of a defining World Cup performance had been party to curtailing Jacques Kallis' Test career. VVS Laxman's regret over not being able to participate in one is also common knowledge. All 15 players were mindful of avoiding that situation, even as the afternoon sun blazed away.
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