Indians prepare for another gentle workout
Just a week ago, Rahul Dravid was a former India captain and a cricket pundit. He was speaking about the need for intense and competitive warm-up games. Although Dravid mentioned only the recent trend of counties putting up their 2nd XIs, it has not helped that India insist on using their whole squad as opposed to picking an XI, robbing these matches of their first-class status. A week later, Dravid is now part of the support staff, a batting consultant in the lead-up to the first Test, which begins in Nottingham on July 9.
Dravid's presence in Derby on the eve of the warm-up game against Derbyshire is unlikely to make the game any more intense. India will play all their 18 players, with only 11 batting and 11 on the field at any given time, and the game is against Derbyshire, who might not need to play a second team to bring the intensity down: they are a place from the bottom of the second division, lost three players last week, and were pummeled by Durham in a Twenty20 on Sunday.
Yet there is an incentive for India to get their intensity up. In their previous tour game, against Leicestershire, who are placed bottom of Division Two, their bowlers conceded 349 for 5 in 62 overs. Two of the five wickets were "retired out". Ishant Sharma and Pankaj Singh were the only two to get wickets. Even as the pressure grows on England after their defeat to Sri Lanka, the focus in the visitors' camp is squarely on their bowlers.
With these quick bowlers, much maligned and missing their bowling captain Zaheer Khan, the intensity was high during India's only training session between the two tour games, on Monday. The lot of them reported at the ground an hour before the rest of the team, along with Duncan Fletcher-led support staff, Dravid and Cheteshwar Pujara. There were no batsmen to bowl to, but the purpose of coming early was to put them through an endurance test. All of them had to do five laps of the ground, without stopping to catch a breath or walking in between before picking up again. Times were kept, charts prepared for Fletcher to examine properly. Almost all of the bowlers seemed winded by the effort. There was no respite, though: after a break for lunch and a team meeting, they went through a full bowling session at the nets.
Mohammed Shami, though, was not part of the endurance test as he worked separately with physio Evan Speechly and strength and conditioning coach Sudarshan VP. His workout was not nearly as intense as the others', he didn't bowl much, but there were no injury concerns to report. Shikhar Dhawan, who had taken a blow and retired hurt in Leicester, was back fit too.
After this game, India move to Nottingham for their preferred mode of preparation, four days of intense training sessions, before the series begins.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo