Are they finished,” a shout emerged from the England dressing room and reached the central square. One of the ground staff yelled a “yes.” A few minutes back England skipper Alastair Cook, dressed in casual low-waist pants and a loose T-shirt, with an office bag hanging from his shoulder, had been seen gingerly walking up the stairs at the pavilion end.
Coach Peter Moores and a few kit bags had followed him to the first floor. Now, Moores was checking if the practice pitches were free so that Cook could take field. His team wasn’t training on Thursday but the captain, under pressure to score big runs, seemed keen to hit the balls and find form before the third Test starts on Sunday.
In front of empty seats and a central square that just had a handful of ground staff, Cook faced throwdowns from the coach. All alone, the England captain was dealing with balls pitched outside around his off-stump, the kind he has edged in this series, and his own demons. The one-on-one, coach-captain session comprised hitting the ball with a few short chat sessions in between.
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After the Lord’s loss, Cook was asked tough questions about his captaincy by former skipper and now commentator Michael Atherton. The England captain had tried to convey that leadership and runs were in a way connected. “I’m trying my heart out to turn this around. First and foremost, I have to start scoring runs. Recent past hasn’t been kind to me, but we have won some games as captain as well.”
In a total contrast, earlier in the day, the Indian skipper had swaggered on the field with his trademark military print kit bag. After the customary football session, a bit of batting, he sat on the dressing room balcony enjoying a cup of tea. After getting run out for 82 at Nottingham in the first Test, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain, had played a big role in the Lord’s triumph.
Insisting with Ishant Sharma and the short-ball theory, that resulted in England’s post-lunch collapse, would give Dhoni a lot of confidence for the series ahead.
The batsmen did have longish stints, but the pacers took it easy. The Lord’s stars — Ishant and Bhuvneshwar Kumar — did bat at the nursery ground, but didn’t bowl. Considering their high workload during the last two Tests, it was understandable to see Sharma be the umpire as Mohammed Shami, Stuart Binny, Ishwar Pandey and Pankaj Singh were stretched to the fullest. On days like these, the touring party was happy to have an 18-member squad.
Focusing on the batting department, Rohit Sharma getting a chance to face quality bowling at the main nets and not Binny, was eye-catching.
AXE LIKELY ON BINNY
Though, these are early days, and the start of the third Test is still a couple of days away, but with the 1-0 lead, Indians might be tempted to overload their playing XI with batsmen. Binny could miss the Test, since the talk at Rose Bowl is the pitch isn’t as green as Lord’s, but not as brown as Nottingham.
The other usual sighting was Murali Vijay, leaving the net last. As has been the case on the tour, he returned to the nets after everyone had finished to take a few more throwdowns. It’s a ritual that he has followed in England and he wasn’t changing it.
Vijay left the turf minutes after Cook had entered the field. Batting, it’s such a complex skill, in-form or out-of-form, there is no substitute for putting in the hours.