Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni could have put a gone fishing sign outside his room,both literally and figuratively. Never in the deep end since the one-day series started,Dhoni spent the day perfecting the hook,line and sinker routine ahead of the game on Saturday,winning which will give them an emphatic 4-0 victory margin.
Team India,who have surprisingly felt at home in alien conditions,played tourists during their evening out on Friday after a thin attendance at the optional training session in the morning. It was the kind of day that gives coaches healthy headaches that dont require aspirins but a feeling that prozac-poppers are familiar with.
Like any match eve,there were questions about the playing XI,but the dilemma in the Indian camp didnt concern the chopping and changing of under-performers. The team management was debating on whether they should rest some of the stalwarts to make way for those on the bench. We want to make sure that we keep the momentum going. That might require us to use our best combination. But we also need to be mindful of the fact that it might be an opportunity to rest one or two players. We just have to weigh up what we want to do. We havent decided yet, said Gary Kirsten,who supplemented each answer with a smile and,for once,wasnt a man of few words.
Just moments before addressing the media,Kirsten had been standing as umpire with the intention of watching paceman Ishant Sharma closely. A shoulder injury in the early part of the series had forced Ishant to rest for a couple of games,and he made only a modest comeback in the last match. But at the nets on Friday,he looked in great rhythm.
In-form batsman Suresh Raina was facing him,but unlike his stunning strokeplay against the Kiwi bowlers,Ishant was making the left-handers stay at the crease difficult. Making the ball rise from uncomfortable lengths,Ishant beat Raina several times as Kirsten nodded his head in approval,realising that the vital piece of the jigsaw was also falling in place.
Kirsten said the New Zealand trip would be a learning experience for the young paceman. Ishant needs to bowl different lengths than what he does in India. Its a fantastic experience. When he comes here later,hell have a good understanding of what he needs to do. It is about understanding what you need to do in certain situations and then going about doing it.
When the coach was asked about the hectic schedule and the lack of warm-up games,he dismissed it as a non-issue. As an individual,I couldnt stand warm-up games because theyre one reason why tours become longer. I just believed that I was experienced enough in my thinking that I could go straight into Test cricket after a few nets.
He did add,however,that some players enjoyed getting some game time. All the Test players have played a lot of cricket back home,so theyve had game time. Dravid has come off a couple of hundreds in the Duleep Trophy and he has got a hundred here. He is in game mode already, Kirsten said.
Listening to the coach reflect Team Indias positive mindset,it was easy to understand why Dhoni had gone fishing.