India's fielders feel the heat
Virender Sehwag admitted India's intensity had dropped during the course of the second day, but attributed it to the hot conditions and flat pitch that the team faced in Chennai.
"I think maybe because of the heat and the flat wicket," Sehwag said after a day when India's fielders veered from shoddy to dismal. "There was nothing for the bowlers, but still they worked hard for the wickets. So it [misfields] happens sometimes but we will work on it in the second innings."
India can never aim to be spectacular in the field - especially with five of their players on the other side of 30 - but the worrying factor was the amateurish efforts from youngsters like RP Singh and Sreesanth. Both let through regulation stops, prompting Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid to let off some steam.
Sreesanth also failed to judge a skier from Dale Steyn late in the innings and received a fiery salvo from Harbhajan Singh, the bowler who also ran towards the ball. Wasim Jaffer wasn't quick to get down to a tough chance at short leg and the rest too had a few sloppy moments on the field.
"Everybody didn't field well," Sehwag said. "It wasn't just them [RP Singh and Sreesanth]. We all want to do well but sometimes the intensity level drops maybe because of the heat."
The heat obviously played a big part but what chance do India's fielders then have in the rest of the series? Ahmedabad and Kanpur are renowned for their oppressive conditions and the situation could only get bleaker as the series goes on. Not only will it affect the runs conceded but also take a toll on the players' fitness.
Sehwag, though, contradicted himself a bit by saying the players were used to these conditions. "All the players are used to playing in India," he said when asked about the weather. "And in India wherever you play after March it is hot. Next we are going to Ahmedabad which is also a hot place and after that Kanpur, where you find dry heat in April. We are pretty used to the heat."
|We will try to bat for around two days and look to put them in on the final dayVirender Sehwag|
While he was optimistic about the team handling the weather, he didn't seem too upbeat about the pitch cracking up. "Maybe on the fifth day," he said with a wry smile, suggesting the game was destined towards a draw. However, he did add India's best chance was to bat for another two days before trying to sneak a win from the back door.
"We will try to bat for around two days and look to put them in on the final day," he said. "We will look to get a lead of around 50-100 runs and put pressure on them. If we get close to their first innings total, then it will be difficult for them because batting will not be easy on the fifth day. Everyone knows that the Chennai wicket spins and bounce so it will be difficult to bat against Harbhajan and Kumble."
Despite India being put on the back foot, Sehwag credited the bowlers for sticking to their guns. "I think the bowlers had to work hard to get their wickets because it is not an easy wicket to bowl on," he said. "We planned to be patient because whenever you play in India you always expect to bowl out the opposition as early as possible because Kumble and Harbhajan are bowling. I think Harbhajan and Kumble deserve special praise for their efforts with the ball. We tried to get them out as early as possible but they also batted well."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo