The five-day conditioning camp for the cream of India's pace bowling talent started off under cloudy skies in Bangalore on Tuesday morning. Members of the national team were joined by those on the fringes, and some who hope to catch the eye over the next fortnight. Gregory King, the South African trainer, oversaw proceedings as the players were put through a series of tests to determine their fitness levels after a month and a half of rest and recuperation.
The 21 men chosen limbered up with a yoga session in the morning and then arrived at the National Cricket Academy so that their fitness levels could be assessed through a combination of bleep tests, cardiovascular endurance tests and core stability tests. Talking to the media, King insisted that the camp was designed with the sole intention of getting the players into shape ahead of what promises to be a gruelling season. "The focus is on fitness, not on injury prevention or the treatment of injury," he said. "Of course, there will be a bit of bowling and throwing, but then it's part of fitness training."
The exercises, he said, would be bowler-specific, with some needing more work in certain areas. The accent on fitness assumes added importance when you consider how contenders like Zaheer Khan have been affected by injuries over the past season.
After the morning workout, Lakshmipathy Balaji spoke to the media, and the grin that charmed the Pakistani public was as engaging as ever. Stressing that he would like to continue where he left off at the end of last season, Balaji said that a recent tour of England with his club side, Chemplast, had been an invaluable experience, especially his interaction with Mike Hendrick, the former England pace bowler.
"It was very good interacting with him," said Balaji. "I got tips on how to pause in the delivery stride, on having a smooth run up, rhythm, and gradually increasing the pace. I also worked on making the batsmen wait for the ball, like what [Javagal] Srinath and Zaheer do."