No match,just practice

Poor drainage washes out tie,India to go into opening Test with no game time.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Benoni | Published:December 14, 2013 4:12 am

As the Indian team drove here bright and early on Friday morning their looked forward to gaining some valuable match-practice against a decent quality opposition. Unfortunately,the ground had hardly recovered from the fury of rain that it had received over the last few days. And despite Willowmoore Park basking in sunshine,there were too many wet spots around to ensure that the visitors’ two-day fixture against the South African Invitation XI had to be called off on Friday itself.

And India had to be content with centre-wicket nets’ practice on ironically the sunniest and brightest day of their tour so far. But it didn’t look like the Indians were complaining as they dove head-long into a nearly three-hour long session. Their already curtailed tour had just been reduced further with their only shot at further acclimatization having taken a blow.

“We can’t do too much about the rain. But we are just happy with getting more practice under our belt. They couldn’t have shifted the match at the last minute owing to the security issues,” said a team official.

Coach Duncan Fletcher was the busiest man on the field,starting off with dishing out slip catching practice to the likes of Rohit Sharma,Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin. He then turning his attention to his Test specialists Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara as they padded up for their respective stints in the nets.

While Vijay looked comfortable against Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami,he did get beaten on a few occasions outside his off-stump by Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma,who seemed to have regained his rhythm after his four-wicket burst at Centurion. Fletcher was straight into action and in the right-handed opener’s ear as he reached the non-striker’s end. During his next stint,Vijay seemed to focus on leaving as many deliveries as possible as he received the coach’s constant acknowledgment from the back of the net.

“I have seen a lot of videos from my previous outing in South Africa. I have played a lot of balls there,rather than leaving. I have got a better idea at the moment. I just want to practise on that because leaving is going to help us big time,” he had said on Thursday. And here after a false start,Vijay looked a lot more accomplished in tackling the likes of Ishant and Yadav.

Pujara in contrast looked a lot more assured. But as he walked back to the pavilion after a 20-odd minute net session,Fletcher walked back with him,at one point shadow-practicing the upper-cut shot and explaining a point or two about it to him. That was the shot Pujara had gotten out to during the Kolkata Test against West Indies—one of his rare failures in the last 14 months.

Crucially for the Indians,Zaheer Khan—following his arduous warm-up routine—looked in good rhythm too as he ran in for a lengthy spell,starting at half-pace before getting

into his groove

Incidentally,the original schedule that the CSA had released a few months ago—the one that led to the back-room mayhem between the two boards—had the Indians playing their practice match at Pietermaritzburg. Rather than at a ground,which is supposed to have the worst drainage facility in the country. And one that has had a history of struggling to host cricket matches even on dry days—if there has been rain in the area. Now,they will go into the Wanderers Test with no match practice and just an incessant number of net sessions. And of course,a lot

of hope.

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