India’s preparations for the World Cup didn’t exactly hit top gear on Wednesday, but given the history and attention to detail of the Gary Kirsten-Mahendra Singh Dhoni core group, that was probably entirely by design.
The 15 men entrusted with the onerous responsibility of emulating the Class of ’83 and reclaiming the World Cup on home patch trooped in to the City in the morning in batches, and then arrived at the Chinnaswamy stadium at 3.45 pm, nearly two hours later than expected.
From the off, it was obvious that this wasn’t going to be a frenetic, no-holds-barred net session. Having checked out the swank, redone dressing room, the players gently traipsed across the Chinnaswamy outfield to the National Cricket Academy for a couple of hours of more fun than games, most of them not lugging their cricketing gear with them.
While cricket is essentially a game of bat and ball, and will always remain so, preparations for a game -- or in this case a tournament -- of cricket have undergone a sea change from the days when a gentle jog around the park was considered too much warming-up! These days, loosening up tight muscles and getting the circulation going almost inevitably involves a game of football; India didn’t deviate from the norm, supplementing the football stint with several more minutes of rocketball, both sport played with unlimited enthusiasm and no little skill.
Almost everyone in this team has played no competitive cricket since the final one-dayer in South Africa on January 23; some have been out of action for longer, and therefore it made perfect sense that the entire bunch was eased into cricket rather than thrown instantaneously into top-gear action and risk serious injury. Muscles that might have been used for a while needed to be relaxed, the general stiffness had to be got rid of, potential rust dusted away, the cobwebs shaken off, and that’s precisely what the objective on Wednesday appeared to be.
The principal bowlers, pacemen and spinners alike, trundled in and rolled their arms over on the centre pitch at the NCA, while some of the top-order batsmen settled for throwdowns from Kirsten, him of the incredible right shoulder that must have facilitated a few zillion throwdowns in the last three years.
In between, Kirsten strode over to the NCA staff and put in a request for ‘flat tracks’, which will most likely be what will be on offer during the World Cup. The ground staff then went to work, getting the mower and scrapers out and providing a largely grassless, brown strip that will undoubtedly be put to test on the morrow.
Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, who both missed the one-day series with arm-related injuries, batted with little discomfort; Sachin Tendulkar, who returned home after the second one-dayer with a hamstring injury, didn’t bring his bat along, but he was involved in a long game of table tennis at the NCA with Zaheer Khan, suggesting that all is well with the maestro too.
The real action will begin on Thursday, when the Indians are scheduled to practice in the morning.
The BCCI, meanwhile, has dispensed with the services of physio Paul Close, it is learnt. Close had replaced Nitin Patel as the team physio last year, when Patel went to the National Cricket Academy. Patel will join the Indian team on Thursday, sources revealed.