Even as much of the attention seemed to be on who would make the Test squad, India's pre-series camp reached its highest intensity during the open-wicket session today that went on for more than four hours. Captain Anil Kumble and coach Gary Kirsten were absent, though, for they were attending the selection meeting in Mumbai.
"The players have worked a lot on their fitness and this whole camp was all about intensity in training and in our skill work," Venkatesh Prasad, India's bowling coach, said. "We have been busy the whole day till about 4 pm. In the morning we had a training session and immediately the players had to come here for a long session. So there is a lot of intensity going on in the last four days after a pretty good Irani Cup."
On the third day of the camp, the claustrophobia that nets may induce for some batsmen was gone; the campers took a pitch adjacent to the one that will be used for the first Test. The batsmen could hit to any area they wanted, save the main pitch, which was segregated by a net.
The batsmen batted in pairs, but from one end only, rotating the strike every six balls or so. The open-wicket practice gave them the freedom of batting in whichever way they wanted. Virender Sehwag, after getting his eye in, tried to hit the bowlers all over the ground, smashing sixes regularly. Harbhajan Singh suffered the most at the hands of Sehwag.
Rahul Dravid, on the other hand, looked to perfect his defence, testing his judgement of when to leave outside the off stump. Ishant Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar had a good little session, too, walking up to each other after almost every delivery and discussing what was right and what was wrong.
The bowlers got an intense workout as well: Ishant Sharma bowled for an hour and 10 minutes in two spells, Zaheer Khan bowled his two for an hour, and Munaf Patel bowled for an hour without a break. Besides the normal stumps, the bowlers had a fifth stump as a guide so that they could get used to bowling the just-outside-the-off-stump line.
Prasad was pleased with the rhythm his pace bowlers have hit leading up to the series. "A couple of them have come back, like Ishant who returned home after the Test series in Sri Lanka," Prasad said. "He has come back pretty well and he is working on his rhythm basically. As far as the pace, bounce and carry is concerned there is no problem whatsoever for most of the bowlers whether it is Zaheer, Munaf, RP [Singh] or Ishant. It is just a matter of time before they are consistent in bowling in those right areas, which we are discussing."
The day ended with speculation over whether they would get a new colleague tomorrow in Sourav Ganguly, who has been selected for the first two Tests. Nobody seemed to know, though.