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Intense Indians target Durban

G Unnikrishnan, Durban, December 24, 2013, DHNS: 3:58 IST

Pujara plays down fatigue factor as visitors gear up for another engaging Test

India's Kohli and Dhawan field the ball during the final day of their test cricket match against South Africa in Johannesburg Reuters Image
Beads of sweats were still rolling down from Virat Kohli’s forehead when he came to bat at the nets after a strenuous session of fielding drills. ‘Need a break?,” shouted fielding coach Trevor Penny in half-jest but Kohli replied with a shake of head and a big smile.

Then Kohli proceeded to spend close to 30 more minutes fine-tuning his batting skills as coach Duncan Fletcher watched intently. It was meant to be an optional practice session but the intensity and purpose the Indians displayed on Tuesday after an emotionally and physically draining Wanderers Test two days ago was mindboggling.

The only ones missing from the session were Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, who had send down 60.3 and 54 overs respectively in the first Test. Before this, the maximum number of overs Zaheer had bowled in a Test was 51.4 overs against Pakistan at Faisalabad in 2006.It was a well-earned rest for them after that heavy workload, and with another session slotted for Wednesday, it’s almost certain that they will be back on the field more rejuvenated. However, South African skipper Graeme Smith hoped to cash in on the fatigue factor of Indian bowlers, if there was any.

“I think that workload will be in their legs somewhere in the Durban Test match. I think especially if we can get a good partnership somewhere in our top order. Hopefully, we could take advantage of the amount of time they spent on the field, and they only had three seamers, who did a huge amount of work. The only fortunate thing is our bowlers have had an extra day of rest (on the fifth day of the match),” said Smith.

However, Cheteshwar Pujara ruled out the fatigue factor. “It was a bit difficult (to recover emotionally) as we felt that we had a very good chance to win the match but just one partnership in one particular session didn’t go our way. So, emotionally and mentally coming out and playing this match will be important. We need to forget what happened and focus on our plans after looking at the wicket and work accordingly,” said Pujara.

Pujara said recovering physically was not as tough a task. “You expect such close matches in Test format. It was a very exciting Test match, and I don’t think there is any problem with the recovery (physically). We are training a lot so we are fit enough to prepare for the next game and there were a lot of positives for us to go ahead with a positive frame of mind in this match,” said the Saurashtra batsman.

Pujara too was an active participant in the nets – honing his close-catching abilities and then focusing on tightening his batting.

That might have come as a tad surprising because he has spent 506 minutes at the crease scoring 178 runs in two innings, besides standing in various close-in positions. But Pujara was more than happy with the time he consumed in the middle because it helped him to create more awareness in himself about the conditions and South Africa, and the net session of the day was a mere extension of it.

“When you score runs you get to know about conditions and bowlers’ strategy and lengths they are trying to bowl, then you know more about their strategy. It becomes a little easier. I am not saying that I can do the same thing again when I walk in there for the second Test, as I will have to work hard obviously. But you know what kind of bounce they are getting, what type of swing they are getting with the new ball. So, it is a little easier for me,” said Pujara.

The other striking image was Ravindra Jadeja, a left-arm spinner, bowling seam-up to batsmen. Jadeja didn’t play the first Test, and it’s most unlikely he may feature in the eleven for the Kingsmead Test. But that didn’t prevent Jadeja from giving his hundred percent, even showing the commitment to give up his original trade for the team’s sake. But that’s a small price you need to pay for playing against the world’s top side, and the Indians showed they won’t take a backward step.

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