When the Rest of India (RoI) and Ranji champions Mumbai trained at the Wankhede on Tuesday, the star attractions from both the teams had a reunion of sorts in the middle.
After Sachin Tendulkar had close to an hour's batting stint in the nets, Rest skipper Virender Sehwag walked
up to him for a chat in the middle of the ground. National selector, Vikram Rathour, a former India opener, who is the coach and manager for RoI, joined in the discussion.
Maybe the gentlemen, engaged in an animated conversation, were already devising plans to outlast Australia in the Test series starting on February 22. But they will have to first deal with the game starting on Wednesday, which will be more than just a clash for the Irani Cup.
For Tendulkar, who had a poor run against England in the Tests and has been playing Ranji cricket since his ODI farewell in December, it could be ideal preparation to face Australia. However, it will be Sehwag's performance that will be followed more keenly, after he was dropped from squad for the just-ended one-dayers against England due to poor form.
Consistently shaky starts from openers Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir was one of the main reasons for India's downfall against the English in Tests, an issue that needs urgent attention.
After his century in the first innings of the opening Test against England, Sehwag failed to cross fifty in the next eight innings. Though Sehwag's ability to cause havoc in the rival bowling ranks is only too well known, he will have to get his eye in here and demonstrate he is ready to take on Australia.
On Tuesday, the opener, under fire for gifting his wicket away too often, was cautious in his approach in the nets. He left a few deliveries from Shami Ahmed and Abhimanyu Mithun that pitched on good length outside off. While that was unlike the Sehwag we know, he did unleash aggressive shots in between, especially against the spinners.
Unless he opts to play in the domestic one-dayers for Delhi, this will be Sehwag's only opportunity to strike form before the Test series.
The focus will also be on the pacers. With Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav still not fit, India need someone to partner Ishant Sharma upfront. Ishwar Pandey, Shami, Mithun and S Sreesanth will all have that in mind. Harbhajan Singh, on the other hand, knows his hopes of playing his 100th Test can rise or fall with this tie.
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