Dhoni recovers from ankle injury
If first impressions are any indication, things aren’t the same at the Feroz Shah Kotla these days. It’s refreshing to see the revamped stadium – old-style architecture blending with modern practice facilities – and even more heartening to note that you can actually obtain a media pass without running from pillar to post. Heck, the officials at the Delhi District Cricket Association even manage a smile or two these days.
Some things, though, remain the same. Officious police officers still think the turf needs to be guarded with their life and the local association couldn’t call on a set of competent net bowlers for the Indian batsmen, and this two days before an important series opener against Pakistan. A collection of schoolboys – all from local clubs – rolled their arms over and left the Indian team management exasperated halfway through.
The sight of Lalchand Rajput, the manager, and Greg King, the physio, trying to get their lines right was enough to suggest a paucity in bowling options.Yuvraj Singh had a lengthy bowl and Sachin Tendulkar and Venkatesh Prasad gave themselves a good work-over too. Zaheer Khan was the only Indian fast bowler who had a go in the nets with RP Singh and Sreesanth preferring to take a break. Sreesanth, in fact, didn’t attend the session and was recovering from a slight twinge in the left shoulder.
The Dhoni question
The big question last evening surrounded Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Will his ankle hold up for the game? Will Yuvraj get a chance? Will Dinesh Karthik have to keep wicket? On today’s evidence all speculation can be put to rest. He sprinted with an Olympian zeal, comfortably outdoing Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, threw slip catches with fervour, and moved athletically while keeping wicket. His batting was fluent, his tattoo on his right arm resplendent and his superstardom highly conspicuous. Basically it was Dhoni doing what Dhoni does best. Basking in the attention and gearing up for a challenge.
India might still have to answer the Yuvraj conundrum. Has he reached a stage where he is demanding a Test spot? Laxman, who’s stiff back forced him to come in at No. 9 in Hyderabad’s second innings against Punjab recently, has recovered and probably deserves a chance given his scores in England. Sourav Ganguly, arguably India’s best batsman in the England Tests, should walk in too. It probably means another bench-warming exercise for Yuvraj, who, since his last Test in June 2006, hasn’t found a way to break through.
Kumble checks in
Mid-way through the net session, in walked Anil Kumble. It was tough to miss the symbolism – India’s most experienced bowler walking in when the rest of the full-time and part-timers were panting away. It was also difficult to ignore the irony – India’s most unassuming of champions instantly surrounded by television cameras and reporters.
Ahead of him, batting at the nets, were India’s probable No. 3, 4, 5,and 6. Yuvraj, a one-day sensation, was hovering around. Behind him was India’s latest superstar Dhoni. Here he was, 37 years of age, surrounded by the men who dictate television TRPs, the cricketers who attract the most eye-balls.
He walked up towards the nets, placed his kit-bag, turned back towards the region where Dhoni was practising his wicketkeeping, took a few catches, returned to the nets, picked up the ball, and plugged away. The first ball hurried VVS Laxman, rapped him on the pads and forced him to let out a smile. Many things change in Indian cricket but Kumble’s intensity, ever since his Old Trafford debut in 1990, has remained a constant.