Kirsten to depart early for SA
Gary Kirsten, India's coach, will accompany the players who are to leave early for South Africa so they can acclimatise for the upcoming tour. Eric Simons, India's bowling coach, will take over the coaching duties for the final two one-dayers against New Zealand as Kirsten heads home.
"He [Kirsten] will leave early along with first bunch 8-10 players," a BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo. Among the players departing are captain MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Cheteshwar Pujara and Jaydev Unadkat. It is also likely that Suresh Raina will be rested for the final two one-day games of the New Zealand series, and will join the players who are departing early, after Dhoni publicly expressed concern about his workload during the third Test against New Zealand.
Kirsten and seven of the players will leave on December 6, while Dhoni and Harbhajan will join them two days later, with Raina also likely to leave on the same flight.
The players will initially train at Kirsten' cricket academy in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg to join the rest of the squad, which will arrive in South Africa on December 12, two days after the New Zealand ODI series ends. The three-Test series begins at Centurion on December 16.
The Indian board had recently granted permission for some of the players to leave a week in advance, after Kirsten made a request for them to do so. The coach felt that in the absence of India not playing any warm-up matches before the first Test, it was imperative players be sent early to get used to the conditions. Kirsten had sent in his request earlier this year, stressing to the board that the players needed time to acclimatise and also adjust to the pitch conditions in South Africa. However, the board took months to consider the request, mostly because of any potential objections the broadcaster might raise about devaluing the New Zealand ODI series, before giving permission earlier this month.
"We have a lot of work still to do on the specifics of technique prior to the Test series. The players will need time to adjust their techniques to get comfortable with the conditions," Kirsten said. "The BCCI has approved the early departure of some our players to South Africa to have sufficient time to prepare properly for a very important series."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo