With coach Gary Kirsten having left for South Africa, the rest of the support staff had to crank things up a notch themselves. Venkatesh Prasad (bowling coach) and Robin Singh (fielding coach), along with Paddy Upton, who assists Kirsten, had their work cut out for them on a hot and humid morning as the players arrived at the P Saravanamuttu stadium in two batches for training and practice.
While Prasad and Robin supervised the nets, Upton was busy organising fielding drills. Dhananjay, the video analyst, pitched in, bowling in the nets and even Nitin Patel, the physio, gave some players throw-downs.
While the batsmen and bowlers went about their routines as usual, special attention was paid to Dinesh Karthik, who has struggled behind the stumps in the first two Test, and Parthiv Patel, the man seeking to displace Karthik. Patel has not played for India since 2004 when he was dropped after the Nagpur Test against Australia in October.
The scores are level going into the final Test but India’s much-vaunted middle-order is yet to fire, falling prey to the spin combination of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, who have claimed 34 of the 40 wickets to fall.
Upton, who spoke to the media after practice, tried to look at things in a positive manner. “We can take a lot of heart (from winning despite the big guns not booming),” he said.
Upton also said the team had the experience and quality to overcome the absence of Kirsten. “There’s a lot of expertise within the team. There are five guys who have captained India, so it will just be a case of coordinating the expertise that’s already there.”
While Upton would not comment on the playing surface, only saying that he had not “scrutinised” the pitch yet, Anuradha Polonowita, Sri Lanka’s national curator, was confident of a good game. “This looks a fine surface. We will have to cut the grass and make it even before the Test. This wicket has bounce. The spinners, the quicker bowlers, and the batsmen will enjoy playing on it.”