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October 29, 2012
A warm-up game ahead of a Test series is usually important only for the visiting side. However, when the visiting side - England in this case - is up against a team filled with Test hopefuls like India A, as will be the case at the Cricket Club of India's Brabourne Stadium from Tuesday, there will be as much at stake for the hosts as the visitors.
With India's Test team in a rebuilding phase and at least half-a-dozen fringe batsmen to feature in the three-day game, all of them will be gunning to impress the newly-appointed national selection panel ahead of the first England Test, which starts on November 15.
While the likes of M Vijay and Abhinav Mukund will try to regain their lost spots in the Test side, Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary will do their best in order to take a step forward towards their Test debut. However, the two players who will be under the scanner the most will be the left-handed batsmen Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh.
Both have long been a key part of India's limited-overs sides and have been vying for the No. 6 slot in the Test batting line-up. While Raina, who returned to the eleven during the two-Test series against New Zealand in August-September, will be looking to seal his spot for the England series with a big knock over the next three days, Yuvraj, who marked his return to first-class with a double century in the Duleep Trophy two weeks ago, will be desperate to complete his comeback bid from cancer by returning to the Test team.
Raina, who will be leading the India A side, talked about his battle within the battles against his senior team-mate. "He (Yuvraj) is my role model. I would love to see him back in whites," Raina said on Monday on the sidelines of India A's gruelling practice session. "I want that (No. 6) spot too. But I'd rather not dwell on who the spot will go to. I just look to enjoy the players' company. Yuvraj has just come back from a big disease and he's also been slogging it out. It's up to the selectors who they want to pick.
"He's a big role model for me and others, but I want to play these four Tests against England. I was there in England and I feel the pain of losing that series 0-4. I want to give some of that pain back."
While Yuvraj preferred to remain silent, Raina was forthcoming on what's gone wrong with his Test batting of late. "It's just the mental aspect. I've given all that I have had to Test cricket," he said. "A lot of people say and write a lot of things, but I know where I stand as far as Test cricket is concerned.
"Batting at No. 6 is not that easy. Very often you get stuck with the tail and have to bat around them. I scored fifties in the West Indies and England and I even batted well against Australia in 2010. I've played 16 or 17 Tests, but as I play more games, I will understand my game better. I've already played 150 ODIs for India and have played several years of IPL. I know what the coach and selectors expect from me and what they need me to do at No 6. I love to play my natural game and I love to hit the ball."
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