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Hard grind for India in the nets

Faisal Shariff in Centurion | February 14, 2003 21:42 IST

'They're looking good'

Misdirection seems to be the Indian mantra these days.

Last evening, captain Saurav Ganguly and coach John Wright indicated that the off-colour Mohammad Kaif would be dropped, and that Sanjay Bangar would take his place.

This afternoon, Ganguly told the media that he was retaining the 12 that played against Holland in the first game -- which 12, you will recall, had Ajit Agarkar on drinks duty and no place for Bangar.

And then, there was the nets -- a hard, punishing session that started in the blazing heat of the noonday sun, here at the SuperSport Park, and went on for hours. And what was being done in the nets seemed to tell a different story.

In one net, on a very quick wicket, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag spent hours facing quick, short-pitched "chucks" from Wright and a couple of local bowlers, from a distance of 15 yards; obvious preparation for facing the Australian music tomorrow.

In another net, Ganguly had an equally extended session -- against spinners!

Taken in tandem with Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting's statement yesterday, about using Darren Lehmann and Michael Bevan as spinners in the game tomorrow, the signals are clear. Tendulkar and Sehwag to open, Ganguly to drop into the middle order.

So when Ganguly indicated earlier that Sehwag would bat at three, was he bluffing the Aussies? Or is he bluffing now, signalling that Sehwag and Sachin will open? One thing is for sure, the Indian captain has a future -- playing poker!

In another net, new ball partners Srinath and Zaheer were working just as hard. Interestingly, neither captain nor coach interfered as the two monitored each other, sharing tips, discussing lines and strategies, then comparing results as they tried implementing them.

Zaheer -- who was a dud the other day against Holland -- looked a totally different bowler today. For a good bit of the time, he bowled to Rahul Dravid, and had India's best technician in repeated trouble.

It was a tough, strenuous session, with the entire team participating -- in contrast to the Aussies, who after some hard yakka yesterday, opted for optional nets today and took things easy.

Chief groundsman Hilbert Smith took me out on to the pitch, which looks hard as rock. The famous key test nearly ended with Smith's key being bent out of shape, it wouldn't go a millimetre into the deck at any point.

Smith's reading is that this is a 250-270 pitch. It could slow fractionally in the second session, he feels, and help a bit of spin, but the change will not be dramatic enough to give undue importance to the toss.

Meanwhile, the Indians have just left SuperSport Park -- for showers, rubs, massages and, finally, an extended team meeting later this evening. And the clock is ticking...

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Number of User Comments: 12

Sub: In retrospect...Ha Ha Ha

The Indians training "real hard" and delivering another dud (with Australia) just goes to prove that you cannot cover the wound by just putting a ...

Posted by Bragadeesh Srinivasan

Sub: Ganguly Trouble..

I think it would be really sad to see the only inform batsman shewag to bat at no 3. I think its crunch time now, ...

Posted by Hemal Shah

Sub: at the nets

Very interesting. Shows the seriousness of Indian team. however , whenever Indian team struggles to perform, all Indians condemn them forgetting that they practiced hard ...

Posted by vijay mohan

Sub: great move

if sachin and sewag opening the game would be a great move follwed by dravid,yuvraj and ganguly and then bangar.thats a good one that the ...

Posted by prasad

Sub: don't b too hard..

don't b too hard on the indians.. they'll prove their worth.. Indian team will make us proud this worldcup ! and there isn't any point ...

Posted by Gautam Rishi


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