Thursday, October 2, 2008

India ready to face Australian cricket team

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.

Cricket calendar 2009 - India, Australia & S. Africa

  • Common events for all three countries
  • Apr 10 - May 29: Indian Premier League
    Jun 5 - Jun 21: World Twenty20
    Sep 25 - Oct 10: Champions League

  • India
  • Jan 6 - Feb 19: Tour of Pakistan
    Mar 6 - Apr 7: Tour of New Zealand
    Oct 13 onwards: ODIs v Australia
    Nov and Dec: Home series v Sri Lanka
    Dec: Tour of Bangladesh

  • Australia
  • Till Jan 30: Home series v South Africa
    Feb 1 - Feb 15: limited-overs matches v New Zealand
    Feb 20 - Apr 17: Tour of South Africa
    Jun 24 - Sep 20: Ashes
    Oct 13 onwards: ODIs v India
    Nov: Home series v Pakistan
    Dec: Home series v West Indies

  • South Africa
  • Jan - Apr: Series v Australia
    Nov and Dec: Home series v England

Australian team in India

Ricky Ponting is confident that Shaun Tait can make a successful return to Test cricket following his self-imposed exile from the game. Tait is preparing for his first-class comeback with South Australia after appearing in Australia A's one-day tour of India last month.

Tait believes his best chance of again featuring in the international arena will be in ODIs. His decision to walk away from the game in January due to mental and physical exhaustion followed his unsuccessful return to Test cricket and a disappointing run with injuries.

"We all want to see him do well for South Australia when he goes back home as well," Ponting told AAP. "Once he gets some Shield cricket under his belt for South Australia, his opinion on playing Test cricket then might change, but at the moment he's only played the shorter versions really and lots of positive signs there.

"For someone like Shaun that [one-day cricket] would be the easier way back. The rigours on your body and your mental state I guess through a Test match or a tough Test match tour can really wear you down, there's no doubt about that."

Tait, 25, has proven a destructive force in ODIs and has 33 wickets from 18 games, including an outstanding tally of 23 victims in the 2007 World Cup. His three Tests have been less successful - he has five wickets at 60.40 - but Ponting believes that Tait could still be a useful addition to the Test attack in the future.

"I think he can be a match-winner for us in Test cricket," Ponting said. "If he gets his body right and his mind right then we'll hope down the track he does want to play five-day stuff with us."