Specialist coaches' absence felt

Senior players step in to fill the breach; injury scare for skipper Dhoni


FLEXING HIS MUSCLE: Indian paceman Ashish Nehra works out at a training session in Vadodara on Friday. AP

There is, however, a marked difference when it comes to the Indian squad as the dry and dusty city gears up to host another India-Australia contest. The most striking feature has to be the absence of bowling and fielding coaches respectively, Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh, sacked unceremoniously after the flop show in the Champions Trophy in South Africa.

Integral members of the support staff after India’s World Cup debacle in the West Indies in 2007, the two former India cricketers were certainly conspicuous by their absence as the Indian team went through a practice session here at the Reliance stadium on Friday.

Ahead of the first of seven one-dayers here on Sunday, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and company landed here on Friday morning after a brief camp in Mumbai and headed for nets in the afternoon. With Prasad and Robin not in attendance, coach Gary Kirsten, mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton and trainer Ramji Srinivasan put the players through their warm-up routines, but there was only so much the three could handle.

It was inevitable that the senior players donned the specialist coaches’ roles. As it turned out, Ashish Nehra was seen giving catching practice, a job performed by Robin. Even video analyst S Dhananjay, who occasionally tries his hand at bowling in the nets, had to chip in with his bit during the fielding session.     

After an hour’s warm up, the players had the nets with Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar walking out together in the first batch. Back after recuperating from shoulder surgery, this is the first time Sehwag has been part of the national team since India’s tour of New Zealand early this year.

Though the right-hander was picked for the World T20 squad, he couldn’t play a single match as he was unable to recover from the injury picked up in the IPL in South Africa. The 31-year-old has been in fine form, as evident during Delhi Daredevils’ failed Champions League T20 campaign, and his return to the top of the order should augur well for India during the series.

Though Sehwag handled most of the bowlers with great ease, he was a bit uncomfortable while facing the nippy Ishant Sharma, who hit the batsman on the ribs. Sehwag, in obvious pain, continued to bat but once he was done with his stint, immediately returned to the dressing room and didn’t join his team-mates for a long time.  

Yuvraj Singh, who makes a welcome return to the side after a freak finger injury ruled him out of India’s abortive Champions Trophy campaign, rolled his arm over and then settled down to face Sudeep Tyagi, Amit Mishra and Suresh Raina. Tendulkar, as usual, has an extended session. Besides facing the regular bowlers, he had Kirsten and Upton sending him throw-downs at length.

Skipper Dhoni, with Prasad no longer in the ranks, kept a close watch on his bowlers, though his job was restricted to the role of an umpire rather than a bowling coach.   
The Australian team arrived here on Friday night.

Injury scare

There was also a minor injury scare for Dhoni, who was hit on the back of his left knee bby a Munaf Patel delivery. The wicketkeeper-batsman limped off after facing another delivery and didn’t return to bat. Later, he was seen wearing a protective brace, but the possibility of any serious injury was ruled out.

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