On Tuesday,you could almost have imagined Duncan Fletcher as a Roman emperor at a Colosseum,giving his verdict on the fate of wounded victims in the middle. He definitely stood like one,sporting his characteristic deadpan expression.
For close to an hour,the Indian coach remained stoic behind the nets where the fast bowlers operated,nodding his head in acknowledgement or in disagreement after each delivery,as his top-order negotiated the pace and the bounce of the practice wickets at the Wanderers. On occasion,he offered a word of advice. But that was it.
He was there when Rohit Sharma took guard,but it was Virat Kohli who received the most stringent surveillance. Indias prolific No.3 was lauded mainly for how he handled deliveries that rose from a length,especially those from the pacier Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami,and also for how he left deliveries based on the bounce.
Try not opening the bat face too much, Fletcher could be heard saying as Kohli looked to ride the bounce and punch Yadav through the off-side. Fletcher was seen furiously shaking his head from side to side when the right-hander attempted a similar shot off Shami soon after,only for a ghastly cracking sound to emanate from the edge of his bat.
As Kohlis net session came to an end,Fletcher was in his ear again,giving him a demonstration on how not to be rushed into playing the ball too early. The coach then returned to his vantage point as Mahendra Singh Dhoni,Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh came under his lens. Back to the nodding.
FORM OF THEIR LIVES
WHILE India have landed in South Africa with some of their top-order batsmen in the form of their lives,the only real challenge,at least as far as the ODIs are concerned,will be how quickly they get used to the bounce here in South Africa. Not so much in terms of defending against it as much as making slight alterations in terms of turning the carry of the ball into an advantage.
They have wasted no time in making the most of the build-up to the first ODI at the Wanderers on Thursday. Dhoni & Co had a two-hour long session on Monday evening less than 12 hours since landing in the country. They were at it again on Tuesday morning,spending close to three and a half hours sweating it out as the sun played hide-and-seek and the temperatures kept oscillating.
Dhoni,in fact,even ended up indulging in an extra session with the bat,after he had tackled the fast bowlers and smashed the net bowlers into the Wanderers car-park repeatedly. Interestingly,he played against the red ball and with video analyst CKM Dhananjai throwing balls to him with the side-arm. Yuvraj,meanwhile,spent close to half an hour playing short balls directed at his neck by Dhananjai.
If you are a batsman who likes the ball coming onto bat,this is the place to play. Joburg can be a high-scoring venue, the Indian skipper had said on Monday.
The last two ODIs at the Bullring have seen three scores of 300 plus. Despite the conditions being tilted slightly towards the bowlers,the visitors will be keen on continuing on with the run-glut they experienced against the Australians and then against the West Indies just before leaving on this tour. The Highveld air will also ensure the ball travels a lot further than at many low-altitude venues.
The likes of Yadav and Shami might have something to say about that,however. For now,though,the Indian batsmen,under their coachs constant vigil,seem keen on bettering their skills against bounce,hoping that all of Fletchers nods are affirmative come Thursday.