With less than 48 hours to go before the India-New Zealand first Test, there was absolutely no demand for tickets here. About 20 photographers, 15 reporters, almost as many Gujarat Cricket Association officials and over 100 policemen were present to watch India at the nets on Tuesday.
Men in khaki always outnumber everybody else when teams practice in India. On this idle afternoon, however, their overwhelming presence seemed to symbolise something. You don’t take chances and let people mess around when the world’s No. 1 Test team gets ready for its upcoming venture.
The opposition may be ranked eighth out of nine current Test-playing nations, humiliated in its previous outing, starkly thin in experience and talent. Still, the best should always give their best to stay where they are. The Indians looked like they mean business, shaking off the ‘Test rust’ they have gathered after beating Australia in Bangalore on October 13.
If the sequence of batsmen taking guard was anything to go by, then the Indians appeared keen to go in with the XI that beat Australia in the first Test in Mohali. The three who missed the second and final one - VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma - were all there after some drills.
Ishant’s right knee was strapped, which didn’t prevent him from going near full throttle and troubling the batters with some regularity, Gambhir and Laxman batted for long, while Rahul Dravid chose to make his session longer. Virender Sehwag flexed his muscles with Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Pragyan Ojha doing their bit.
Just when his absence was about to raise a question, Sachin Tendulkar appeared in battle gear. As he does so often, the boss of batsmen past, present and the foreseeable future opted to knock balls thrown from a shorter distance.
A 50th Test century here will hand the Sardar Patel Stadium the distinction of hosting three milestones -Sunil Gavaskar became the first batsman to reach 10,000 runs here in 1987 and Kapil Dev overtook Richard Hadlee’s then world record of 431 wickets in 1994.