iconimg Monday, August 31, 2015

Sanjjeev Karan Samyal, Hindustan Times
Colombo, September 30, 2012
For once, all of them turned up for practice, but there was more football than cricket in Saturday's training session, as the focus of the evening was on helping the players put behind the previous night's disaster. The blue brigade began with a huddle and plunged straight into a game of football here. They kept at it for more than an hour, and the batting and bowling was restricted to those keen on honing their skills.

Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary took turns to have long hits, while pacers Zaheer Khan, L Balaji and Ashok Dinda bowled long spells along with the spin duo Harbhajan Singh and R Ashwin.

But the man, on whom the lenses were trained at, didn't give the cameras an opportunity to get a good action picture. For someone who hardly got an opportunity to bat last week, Sehwag, surprisingly, didn't take an active part in the proceedings.

During the game of football, he played the goalkeeper, his role restricted to cheering his side, and whistling when they scored. After the game, he spent time with MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. He held court, talking cricket, in between breaking into guffaws.

The team looked like a happy family, but there were questions lost in the smiles, one being about who would come out to open with Gautam Gambhir on Sunday.

If the pressure is on Sehwag, there was no sign of it. On the eve of the opening game, the tension was palpable. It showed when he batted in the nets and shrugged off Trevor Penny's call to join in a fielding session with the statement: "I am a spectator". On Saturday, he was chilled out and was seen joking from the time he checked in.  The only time he got serious was when coach Duncan Fletcher walked up to where he was chatting with Virat and Dhoni, and said something to him.

Meanwhile, a loss against Pakistan on Sunday will all but end India's chances of progressing. The pressure is nerve-wracking and the skipper issued a rallying cry to his troops.

"What is important is that we go to the field and express ourselves because you'll not have a worse game than what happened (vs Australia). Let's play big shots and go in with a lot of confidence. Let's not fear the result."