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India preach patience and ponder combination

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'Once settled, it will be easy to bat' - Rahane (3:25)

Ajinkya Rahane talks about the conditions of the wickets and how the players have performed in the practise games (3:25)

Towards the end of India's practice session at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Monday, Rohit Sharma ignored a teasing legbreak outside his off stump. Cheteshwar Pujara, the deliverer of that legbreak, grinned. Someone behind him - possibly R Ashwin - yelled out: "Bowled, Yasir!"

In the first half of 2015, Pujara versus Rohit was a batsman-against-batsman contest, a selection headache for India's Test-match team management. Now, things were a little different. Pujara was bowling to Rohit. No matter what Rohit did, Pujara was yelping excitedly, whether it was a defensive push into the off side - "caught at silly point!" - or a leg-side slog - "caught at midwicket!"

Pujara had already finished a long batting stint, as had M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. In pairs, they had rotated through three different nets - seamers, spinners and throwdowns.

Rohit had not batted with that group. He was now batting against Pujara, Ashwin - who continued bowling despite a long spell against the first set of batsmen - and a pair of net bowlers. At the other two nets were Wriddhiman Saha and Stuart Binny.

Binny, by then, had bowled a lengthy spell, and had looked particularly sharp against Dhawan, swerving the ball past the left-hander's outside edge on a couple of occasions. Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami had bowled alongside Binny at the seamers' net, and had both looked to hit fullish lengths, with Ishant sending down the odd bouncer for variety.

Concurrently, Ashwin, Jadeja and Amit Mishra had been in operation at the spinners' net. When the first set of batsmen had completed their sessions, Mishra had bowled to an empty net with head coach Anil Kumble keeping close watch. With the toe of his shoe, Kumble had drawn a line extending down the pitch from leg stump, and seemed to instruct his legspinner to try and pitch the ball within the stumps, perhaps in order to keep the lbw and the outside edge in play.

Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur only came out when the core batting group had finished its session, and bowled solely to Rohit, Saha, the allrounders, and the lower order.

Watching the first half - or three-quarters, in terms of time - of the net session, it seemed as though India had narrowed their squad down to 13 for the first Test in Antigua. Rohit, Umesh, Bhuvneshwar and Thakur did not seem to be among the 13.

It also looked like India were planning to play five bowlers - or four specialists and an allrounder - leaving them two major calls to make on the eve of the match: whether to pick Dhawan or Rahul to partner Vijay at the top of the order; and whether to pick a seam-bowling allrounder in Binny, a spin-bowling allrounder in Jadeja, or to pick both and leave out Mishra.

With three days to go for the Test match, not too much could be gleaned from looking at the pitch, straw-coloured and glowing in the afternoon sun, except that there was hardly any grass on it. The pitches in St. Kitts, where India played their two warm-up matches, were on the slow side, and Ashwin had reckoned his team would need to be patient in order to take 20 wickets given similar conditions in the Test series. "I'm sure I'll have to be as boring as possible in terms of trying to plug away all day long," he had said.

On Monday, Rahane reinforced that point, from both batting and bowling perspectives.

"Patience will be the key as a batting unit but once you get set it is important to [make] each and every session [count] because we will have to give time for our bowlers," he said. "It is not easy to take 20 wickets on this kind of pitches, especially on the slower tracks. As a batting unit, we will have to take responsibility and I think one or two batsmen will have to get set and score big here."

And that, he said, might mean a guarded approach from the batsmen.

"You cut out certain shots because, technically, I don't think we will have to change anything really. But we will have to cut out some shots initially, in the first or second session, and after that when you get used to the conditions you will play your shots. But initially, it is important to take time for yourself. If you are used to getting 100 in 150 balls, maybe here you will have to get 100 in 200 balls. So as a batsman it is important to play at least 200-plus balls here."

It will be even more vital for India's specialist batsmen to spend time at the crease if there are only five of them. The trade-off, of course, is an extra bowler, another body to share the workload of taking 20 wickets in sluggish conditions.