Trevor Penney's awkward outing
"Think only of the pick-up. Forget the stump," Trevor Penney shouts at Sanju Samson, who has just fumbled in the hurry to get a throw in. The young Kerala wicketkeeper-batsman is part of the ODI squad going through a fielding drill, the players are training in their new blue kit, the ball is white.
Fielding coach Penney and bowling coach Joe Dawes have been sent on leave. "They can go on holiday, or go back home," the BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel has said. "They can even come to India if they want." Yet they are here, at Lord's, five days before India's first ODI, which will be played under new assistant coaches and a team director.
They are overseeing India's first training session after the two demoralising three-day defeats in Tests. They have been asked to do the job until the others join the team. B Arun and R Sridhar are expected to join the team on Thursday. Ravi Shastri is likely to be with them on Friday, when they play their warm-up match against Middlesex. Sanjay Bangar will come on the 23rd. Until then, Penney and Dawes have to co-ordinate training sessions. Ouch.
This is awkward. One final assignment after you have been asked to leave. Or go on a leave. If Penney is frustrated, angry or embarrassed, he is not showing it.
As Dawes and Fletcher kneel down outside the empty Lord's pavilion, drawing up a batting order for the nets, Penney has already picked up his cones and taken Suresh Raina and Ajinkya Rahane aside. Dawes will go and oversee the nets, almost to be cleaned up by a straight hit back at him.
These are two of the best fielders in the Indian side. Penney has himself been an excellent fielder.
Rahane has had an ordinary second half of a Test series. Raina is still smarting from a drop from the ODI side. Penney, well Penney does not have too long. During this half hour, it seems nothing else matters to the trio. It seems almost therapeutic. A dance. A trance.
The fielder has to walk towards Penney, who is about 15 yards away, and can hit to the left, to the right or at him. He has to change direction, pick up, and throw at a stump.
"Nice pace off the mark."
"That was a good one. Stretched you."
After a while, Raina has hit the stumps twice, Rahane once. There is a bit of competition on. They applaud each other at direct hits, but also want to hit the stumps more often.
Rahane makes it two-each. Immediately Raina takes the lead.
"That was a lazy one. Let's do two more."
Now Penney lays out the cones at the boundary edge, in a circle. This looks like the boundary edge. Raina and Rahane have to stand at the edges, about 20 yards apart.
"Sureshi, can I use your bat?" asks Penney. Raina nods. Now he starts hitting hard, between Raina and Rahane. They have to practise relay throws. Yet they need the get the technique right. Who goes hard at the ball, who is ready to accept the lob and throw as hard as he can?
"Sort it out among yourselves," shouts Penney.
The first one is drilled hard, and bisects the two. On the next, Rahane goes hard, and Raina stands back. Suddenly Raina realises Rahane is not going to make it, and dives behind Rahane. The four is saved, but the throw is not great. "Eight on 10. Just because of the throw."
The next time Raina dives behind Rahane, he lobs the ball back up. Rahane lets it rip. "Nine on 10."
They keep changing roles. Sometimes Raina fields first, on other occasions, Rahane. Once they have got this right, Penney asks the two to take overhead catches. Except the two have to look into the sun while taking them.
A few are dropped. Rahane takes one at the edge of the boundary, tosses it back before falling over, and Raina makes sure it does not go to ground. They knock hands, Penney smiles. Fielding can be such a joy. There are no pesky slip catches rearing their heads here.
There is a poignant moment at the end of the half hour. Just as Raina and Rahane are about to leave, Penney shouts, "Two each more."
Does he want to extend this session? Or is this because the last catch has been dropped because of the sun?
The three have worked with each other for a long time. The two have grown as ground fielders and outfield catchers. "Thanks Trevor," shouts Rahane. That won't do. The three converge.
Penney has some advice. He checks on their palms after some of the hard hits at them. They shake hands. Is this the last time they will be working together? You assume Penney is thinking of only the pick-up, and not the stump.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo