India begin preparatory camp ahead of England Tests
While the visiting Englishmen played their third warm-up game of the India tour in Ahmedabad, India's Test side eased into its three-day preparatory camp for the upcoming series with a short practice session at the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in south Mumbai. All members of the squad, barring Harbhajan Singh, whose flight was delayed, arrived at the CCI in the afternoon, along with coach Duncan Fletcher, and batted and bowled for a little more than an hour after a short game of football. With the World Twenty20 and Champions League T20 having consumed most of September and October, this was the first outing for India's Test side in nine weeks, the first after the New Zealand series at home.
The fitness of Zaheer Khan, who had lasted all of 13.3 overs on India's tour of England last year, was again in focus. Zaheer had pulled up sore, pointing towards his groin, on the third day of Mumbai's Ranji Trophy opener against Railways last week, and had walked off the field. He didn't bowl or field on the fourth and final day, but Mumbai captain Ajit Agarkar had said Zaheer's problem was just cramp. Today, while the other quick bowlers in the India squad, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma, bowled through the mini-session, Zaheer spent the majority of his time on the massage table. He eventually did bowl for a while but was clearly not extending himself. On the other hand, Ishant and Umesh, especially, bowled with pace and rhythm.
The batsmen took to the nets as per the batting order in batches of four, with Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara and Sachin Tendulkar starting off. Pujara looked in fine touch, defending and attacking confidently, though the bowling was below par at times. With various age-group matches going on in Mumbai at the moment, it was difficult to assemble decent young net bowlers. Two of those bowlers, though, managed to hit Tendulkar's stumps once each with the batsman appearing a touch tentative. Tendulkar did loft R Ashwin crisply a few times and soon left the nets to receive a few throwdowns.
Next in were Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni. Gambhir and M Vijay, the reserve opener, continued to bat into the fading light after the rest were done. After Gambhir walked off eventually, Vijay hit a few more for a while against the local spinners and was the last player to leave the nets. The squad will have a full training session tomorrow.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo