Mumbai v Vidarbha, Ranji Trophy, Group A, Mumbai November 27, 2013

Umesh to focus on line and length ahead of South Africa

From being touted as the next in line after Zaheer Khan to lead India's pace attack, to being labelled injury prone, Umesh Yadav has seen it all over the past 12 months. As a result, Umesh, who was included in India's Test and ODI squads for the tour to South Africa, isn't thinking too far ahead. Instead, Umesh, who will wear Vidarbha's whites against a formidable Mumbai outfit in the Ranji Trophy from Thursday, is just focused on getting his basics right in the lead up to the much-anticipated tour.

"I am not thinking too much, because thinking too much gets too many thoughts in the mind. Since I have got matches to play before going [to South Africa], I am concentrating on my line and length. That will be my preparation,"Umesh said. "The weather conditions there are different, wickets are different, so my mental preparations will be to focus on an area and bowl - that is on three quarters [of a length] and outside the off-stump. That is what I am focusing on because that is what important in Tests, bowling wicket to wicket is important."

Despite the seamer-friendly conditions in South Africa, Umesh hasn't taken his place in the team for granted. With veteran Zaheer Khan returning to the side, he is likely to be vying with the promising Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and the ever-inconsistent Ishant Sharma, for a spot in the eleven. The spinners, too, he said, would have a role to play in the two Test matches. "Though you don't expect too much turn there, we do have spinners who can turn the ball anywhere. One should look at it from what works best for the team."

During's Umesh's workout at the Wankhede Stadium on the eve of his side's match against Mumbai, he caught up with Mumbai captain Zaheer. The pair was involved in a detailed discussion, while the rest of their team-mates had a net session. "He asked me how I am doing, enquired about my fitness, and also told me to concentrate on my line and length," Umesh said.

With the Mumbai team including quality batsmen like Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane and Abhishek Nayar, this match will be a test for Umesh on a pitch that's likely to assist pacers in patches. It will be ideal preparation for South Africa, he said. "For every fast bowler, match practice is good, so I feel that if I play before going on the tour it will be better for me," he said. "The kind of wicket this is … South Africa also has bouncy wickets, so it would be good preparation and Zak paa [Zaheer] is also playing, so I will get to learn by watching him as well - watching how he bowls, what he is doing with the ball. So it is very important for me."

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo