Any vacancy for the utility man?

Just before the practice session,Indian team physio Nitin Patel did a rudimentary assessment of Ishant Sharma’s injured shoulder.

Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | Napier | Published: March 2, 2009 11:34 pm

Just before the practice session,Indian team physio Nitin Patel did a rudimentary assessment of Ishant Sharma’s injured shoulder. Standing a few metres away,he asked the bowler to try some under-arm throws. Ishant had no problem with that. But while trying to throw over-arm,the paceman grimaced and rubbed his shoulder. Thereafter,he was asked to spend the rest of the afternoon umpiring in the nets.

Though team manager Niranjan Shah still said that the bowler had a “50-50 chance” of playing the first ODI on Tuesday,it seemed unlikely that further damage would be risked at this stage of the tour.

Zaheer Khan and Praveen Kumar got the first crack at the batsmen during practice,while away from the action,India were looking at the back-up options for Ishant. Irfan Pathan was having a long chat with the team’s body and mind guru Paddy Upton as Team India’s perpetual dilemma over the all-rounder was all pervading once again.

In the last couple of series,Irfan hasn’t been effective with the ball but his proven track record with the bat has made dropping him from the playing XI a difficult choice. Even in Sri Lanka,his performance with the ball led to a debate about his utility,but he made up with his batting in the two T20 games there.

In the last match in Wellington,he had a nightmarish start when Kiwi opener Jesse Ryder swatted him for a first-ball six. As runs flowed freely off his bowling,the Irfan-baiters were again raising their voices. Then,out of the blue,he hurled the delivery of the tour so far to dismiss Ross Taylor,and followed it up with the wicket of Jacob Oram. But then,in the final over,Irfan’s ‘other side’ caught up once again as a half volley and a full toss helped Brendon McCullum score the 12 runs needed for victory.

Upton kept watching closely on Sunday as Irfan bowled next to the central square away from the rest of the team. Later,he even gave the all-rounder throw-downs for batting practice. As the Indian team start getting ready for their ODI opener,captain MS Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten will once again be contemplating if Irfan fits into the scheme of things.

Other than that,it was pretty much a regular session. Sachin Tendulkar,as usual,spent a lot of time at the crease. He also faced coach Gary Kirsten’s rigorous throw-downs,the routine interrupted by regular breaks for mid-pitch talks between the two.

But most of the attention was grabbed by a rare incident involving Yusuf Pathan. He top-edged a ball from his brother that sailed out of the stadium and landed on a passing taxi. When the sound of shattering glass followed,it was clear that some damage had been done. Soon,the taxi driver talked into the stadium with the ball in his hand,shouting: “Who is responsible for this!”

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