Updated: January 15, 2016 9:18:55 am
Twenty-Two minutes spent in the nets were enough indication that Ishant Sharma was readying to go full tilt on the 22 yard pitch, when India play Australia in the second ODI at Brisbane on Friday. His index finger had sufficiently healed even prior to the opener at Perth, but his reasonably long spell in the nets even as Rishi Dhawan spent most of his time on the sidelines meant that Ishant was being prepped to have a go at the Gabba even as India look to load up on their pace arsenal.
Captain MS Dhoni had been overtly critical of his spinners after the defeat in the first one-dayer when Ashwin took some initial hammering. Though it was the centurion Rohit Sharma who had first hinted at a possible beefing up of the pace battery after the five-wicket loss. Unlike the World Champion Australians, the Indian team management don’t believe in revealing their Playing XI on match-eve.
However, the opener dropped enough hints about the train of thought within the dressing room of how India were contemplating going in with four pacers, when he said, “You have to wait and see tomorrow. Playing in Perth and Brisbane there is that extra bit of bounce and it will help fast bowlers more than the spinners,” he said, adding, “Yes, there are discussions going on but we all have to wait and see what MS thinks and what he feels is the right combination to go forward with.”
If four pacers are indeed picked, then chances of Ishant playing are near certain. Rishi Dhawan, considered to be an all-rounder by the selectors, spent most of his time dawdling by the nets. Australian net bowlers rolled their arms to the Indian top-order but Rishi only bowled to Umesh Yadav and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who strapped up and batted last.
Dhoni’s eternal search for a seaming all-rounder clearly wasn’t ending at Rishi’s doorstep, just yet. Though the two were spotted at a sports shop later in the evening. Interestingly, the two senior travelling selectors Vikram Rathour and Saba Karim stood at the end of the nets keeping an eye on the proceedings.
Ishant who hurt his right index finger during a Vijay hazare trophy game was fit and available for selection, and as soon as he walked off from his bowling spell, he asked the Indian team bowling coach Bharat Arun how long he had spent at the nets, “22 minutes,” Arun replied, and Ishant walked back leaving a whiff of impending selection for match day. Barinder Sran was seen bending his back throughout the nets and Umesh Yadav and Bhuvaneshwar bowled a lot too, and though Ishant joined in late, India looked primed for a four-pronged pace show either at the cost of a spinner or sacrificing a batsman.
Onus on batsmen again
Gabba’s pitch traditionally offers some extra bounce for seamers but like Perth it too is expected to be a flat track. The batters will be expected to play a major role once again. And Australian all-rounder James Faulkner too echoed the same sentiment that the next game is expected to take off on a flat pitch.
“Everyone was quite surprised with how the wicket played at Perth. It was obviously very flat and we saw so many runs being scored. I think, any time over 300 runs are being scored and chased, it’s definitely a flat wicket. I’m expecting the same sort of scenario here as well. I haven’t seen an ODI wicket that hasn’t been flat here for a fair while. It should have good pace and carry and should be a good contest again,” Faulkner said.
India though 1-0 down, are keen on fighting back and team talk has been about ut being just a matter of breakthroughs which eluded them last game. One solid stand between George Bailey and Steven Smith took the game away from the Indians’ reach after the visitors had managed to make early inroads at 10-2 in the 300-plus chase. Sharma speaking on match-eve too agreed that getting wickets at the right time was the key.
“They created very good partnerships and then we were not able to get back in the game. They batted really well. There were a lot of positives in our batting but we still need to work on our bowling and get those breakthroughs whenever there is a big partnership going on,” Sharma said.
But with the new rules in place where teams are allowed five fielders outside the circle, it has become crucial for a set batsman to carry on the charge and accelerate rather than leave it to the new man walking in, to ensure a good score. “When a set batsman is batting in the middle it is easier for him than the new batsman to come and play his shots. So it is very important for the batsman who is batting well to carry on as long as possible because that is how you can stretch your target and get to a competitive score,” Sharma added.
In another corner of the Indian nets, it was evident that all hands were on deck to win the next game. Virat Kohli was trying to correct his former under-19 team-mate Manish Pandey’s batting technique with the latter batting as if on a sub-continent wicket. “Panduuu,” he screamed as Pandey started tentatively a few yards away, “Ball ke peechhe ja, bahut gap de raha hai tu.” Pandey immediately nodded and got down to the necessary adjustments of getting behind the ball and playing close to the body to counter the movement and bounce that’s typical to Aussie wickets. It was a cohesive unit, plugging gaps in its strong batting even as India try to bolster their fast bowling ranks and go level on Friday.
In a different time zone
India will play five One-dayers and three T20 Internationals while in Australia over 21 days. The schedule is rather taxing but what is making things tougher for the Indian players during the early part of the tour has been adjusting to the different time zones, First they had to get used to being two and a half hours ahead of Indian Standard Time when they arrived in Perth. On Wednesday night they reached Brisbane, in Queensland, and were adjusting to the time difference of four-and-a-half hours – between Delhi and Brisbane. A match every second day means, they play, travel, practice and play. And if they have a late evening flight like on Wednesday, it could result in sleep-deprived cricketers turning up for practice. The Indian team took an evening flight on Wednesday from Perth and by the time they checked in to their hotel in Brisbane – a 4,338 kilometre journey – it was midnight. They had a morning practice session on Thursday. Keep in mind, they also travel to Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Adelaide.
Hamstring under watch
It’s not everyday that the Indian cricket team invites an academician to have a close look at their training session. But Anthony Shield was bringing along with him a device which can identity players who are at risk of injuring their hamstring. Shield, a senior lecturer of Queensland University, was invited by Indian team physiotherapist Patrick Farhat and trainer Shankar Basu. This was a prevention better than cure policy given that fast bowler Mohd Shami pulled out after landing in Australia because of a hamstring strain. Shield has come up with the testing device, which was tested by MS Dhoni. It is called the ‘Nordboard’ and is used by eight EPL teams and in the Australian Football League. “In cricket, hamstring strain is the No.1 or No.2 injury. We are investigating potential ways to minimize the risk of a hamstring strain,” Shield said on the sidelines of India’s practice session. “At the end of the day the device will give you some information on how strong you are. More importantly it gives feedback on whether training is going in right direction,” Shield said. The machine keeps a track of the injury history and the software produces scores depending on the exercise done.
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