It was just a new day. Nothing had changed overhead, the sky was grey, the rain kept coming and going, casting a shadow over the second match of the Commonwealth Bank tri-series as well. Clearly, cricket was struggling to come to the fore.
The Indians were trying their best nonetheless by sweating it out indoors. Although it was an optional training session, they were out in almost full strength barring Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma. There was no slip in intensity as they did whatever they could on the synthetic surface.
There was one change, however, and that was in planning. Up next is a new team that many believe is India’s principal obstacle on the road to the finals, given that almost everyone is convinced that Australia will be there. Irrespective of what India and Sri Lanka think of that, every game featuring them is going to be a semi-final of sorts.
Yuvraj Singh’s knee injury continues to be a concern and the team is not willing to take any chances by fielding him before he has recovered fully.
“He’s better, but not 100 per cent. I don’t think it’s prudent to rush him back in action. We have a break between the second and third match (on Sunday, in Melbourne against Australia) and Yuvraj is expected to be fully fit by then,” Dhoni had said after Sunday’s match. If Yuvraj stays out, there are unlikely to be changes to the XI that played the first match.
It means another chance for Manoj Tiwary and another test for the middle-order that stays an area of concern. Dhoni said he was toying with the idea of tinkering with the order, but there was no confirmation on that.
While worries over batting stay, the bowling has shown encouraging signs. Apart from glaring at the Australia batsmen, Sreesanth was impressive in what he did on Sunday as was Ishant. Even though Dhoni has talked about giving everybody a chance, Munaf Patel is unlikely to get a look-in unless the skipper opts for five bowlers. With the batting looking wobbly, that option is ruled out, at least for the time being.
The focus remains firmly on the batsmen and how they overcome inexperience with talent. Rohit Sharma looked good for a while and by sending him at the pivotal No 4 slot, the team has shown how hopeful the think-tank is of him.
If the first match was an indication, Dhoni’s plan seems to be conserving himself and Robin Uthappa for the big shots later in the innings. The responsibility of consolidating then lies with Gautam Gambhir, Rohit and Tiwary, after of course, the bigger names at the top of the order.
The Indians will be tested again by the likes of Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga or Mutthiah Muralitharan and in that sense, it’s a precious outing for these young batsmen.
How they make the most of this earn-and-learn opportunity will unfold on Tuesday, weather permitting.