Clandestine trip awaits Indians

No sooner have the Indian team reassembled after an off-season that lasted less than three weeks and they're off again, to an undisclosed location for three days of team-bonding away from the scrutiny of the media and fans. The venue, most likely a defence establishment or a spa in the countryside outside Bangalore, has been kept secret even from the players, most of whom were expected to reach the team hotel in Bangalore by 6pm on Tuesday.

Greg King, the fitness trainer, said that there was more to keeping the venue a secret than keeping the media away. He suggested that it had everything to do with taking players out of the comfort zone. "The camps we've had have been pretty similar," he said, making it clear that more than yoga, gym work and bleep tests awaited the players.

The team will be away for three days, and will return to Bangalore on July 29. The following day, the players will be put through their paces, and various parameters ranging from body-fat index to overall aerobic strength will be assessed. After training at the National Cricket Academy on July 31 and August 1, the players will disperse for a short break before the cricket-skills camp that begins here on August 6. Greg Chappell, currently on vacation in the United States, is expected to reach Bangalore two days before the start of the camp.

In his absence, Ian Frazer, his assistant, and King spent some time in the nets with Irfan Pathan and Suresh Raina, who both arrived a couple of days in advance of the rest. Both men had poor outings in the West Indies, and Pathan's indifferent form in particular was cause for genuine concern. The selectors though have reposed faith in both for the Sri Lanka triangular, and neither man will want to squander the opportunity.

Also joining the 15-man squad will be Lakshmipathy Balaji, Murali Kartik, Dinesh Karthik and VVS Laxman, who haven't found a place in the team for Sri Lanka. Ashish Nehra, currently playing in England, was also expected to join the second camp, but the board has now decided to let him continue with his Minor Counties stint.

While the likes of Australia have been hibernating longer than the average hedgehog after an exhausting season, it's straight back to the grind for the Indians, who only finished their Test series in West Indies on July 2. Fairly lengthy off-seasons in 2004 and 2005 didn't seem to help much, with the team starting sluggishly on both occasions. With the World Cup less than eight months away, perhaps a quick turnaround is the way to go - clandestine training methods or not.