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Battle-weary Indians begin World Cup quest

cricket Updated: Aug 14, 2010 02:30 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
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With five days without a game — a luxury for India’s international cricketers —Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina decided to take some time off and spend some time at home before India’s next game against Sri Lanka on Monday.

"Both players had some personal commitments and had taken permission from the BCCI,” team manager Ranjib Biswal said on Friday. “They will rejoin the team today.”

However, the team management does not have any issues with the absence of two key members who are part of the team’s plans in all formats of the game. An overdose of cricket has resulted in the team management instructing those who have been in Sri Lanka for five weeks to “completely take some time off cricket”.

The only exception was paceman Ishant Sharma, who bowled in the nets along with the young blood roped in for one-dayers for the second successive day. Sharma joined the injury club after last week’s third Test, which has been a major cause of concern for the team. With India slated to play eight Test matches and 13 one-dayers between the conclusion of the ongoing tri-series and the beginning of the World Cup, the team is obviously concerned about fitness issues.

“This is going to be the biggest challenge - to keep on winning all the matches and yet maintain the players’ fitness,” a key member of the Indian squad told HT. “The worst fear, as of now, is that due to excess of cricket, we will not be able to field the best eleven in South Africa and during the World Cup.”

With the team always under pressure to win every time, coach Gary Kirsten and skipper M.S. Dhoni, who has been constantly playing competitive cricket for the last year barring a month-long break between the IPL and the Asia Cup, are left scratching their heads. As a part of their preparations for the South Africa tour “where we have never won a Test series till now”, and the World Cup, the senior members of the squad have submitted some suggestions to the BCCI. Some of the major suggestions include reducing the three-Test series against Kiwis to two matches to help team reach Africa early.

The Board, unfortunately, hasn’t yet taken the suggestions seriously. “As cricketers, all we can do is to express our views to the governing body. The rest is not in our hands,” the member said. A lot of hue and cry was made after India’s 200-run defeat against New Zealand in tri-series opener. However, the team wasn’t surprised at all.

“Not much was expected of that game,” the team source said. “We had four to five key guys who had played three Tests in just over three weeks and the rest of the youngsters had just come from India with hardly any cricket under their belt.” Having set their targets for the next eight months, the team has approached the BCCI with an open heart for the “betterment of the key individuals, and most importantly, the team”. If the injury list increases and the dismal show in the last edition of the World Cup is repeated in the sub-continent next year, then it won’t be fair to blame only the Men in Blue.