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Sidharth Monga in Bangalore
October 3, 2008
India's five-day pre-series camp at the Chinnaswamy Stadium ended with another open-wicket session and fielding drills. Over the past five days, they have given one day exclusively to fitness and fielding, two days to batting and bowling in the nets, and two to open-wicket practices. On the last day of the camp, they got extra bowling help in L Balaji, Yo Mahesh, Pankaj Singh and a few Karnataka bowlers. The team will reassemble on Monday in Bangalore.
In between, they also found time to take their minds off the training. "We got a nice five days of work, and we used the maximum possible time for the preparation," Gary Kirsten, India's coach, said. "Yesterday we tried to get away from cricket for a while, and had a bit of fun along with a team-building exercise." The team-building exercise happened, of course, without Sourav Ganguly and RP Singh. Ganguly was a late addition to the team, and has hence missed the camp completely. RP Singh missed the last two days, as he joined Ganguly in Chennai for the second Test between India A and New Zealand A. Another absentee for the last two days has been Virender Sehwag, who is down with a sore throat, Kirsten said.
The most interesting part of the camp has been that the training hasn't always looked like a chore. Nets didn't go on for two days in a row; the players always came out to practise in batches of seven and six; and there was the team-building session. "We have tried to break the tedium of training by doing different things."
Kirsten was happy that he could get most of the team together for a considerable period of time before the important series against Australia. "This is probably the first time we got so much time in the lead-up to the series," Kirsten said. "We could really prepare well, and we are looking forward to the Tests. The camp gave us time because when we are playing constantly we try to squeeze in some time for individual players between playing time."
One of the positives to have come out from the camp is the kind of rhythm Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel have hit. They have looked menacing everyday, and have managed to trouble all the batsmen in the Indian team. "It's great to have some intensity and to have back-up," Kirsten said. "Munaf has stepped up to the plate in the last couple of months, Ishant has been bowling well for a number of months now, and Zaheer has performed really well."
The way they have bowled in the camp has been enough to at least make the management think of going with three seamers on Indian pitches. "Yeah we have thought about it," Kirsten said. "We have thought about options like picking an extra seamer, but the thing is the team is pretty stable at the moment for many years and there is no specific reason to change that."
The team's "stability", though, has been under constant threat leading up to the series, with Ganguly just scraping into the team and the other seniors apparently being put on notice. Kirsten wanted to look beyond selectorial matters. "Instead of focusing on individuals who are picked to play for India, we need to focus on the team and get on with the Test series."
While the Indian Test team was training in Bangalore, the Board President's XI has given the Australians a harsh welcome in their opening first-class game of the tour. Kirsten, though, knows better than to draw comfort from the Australians' discomfort in Hyderabad. "I am certainly not looking at the game too closely," he said, "because I know it will be a different Australian team that will walk in and play Test cricket."
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?