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Net loss on the first day

The nets, set at New Zealand Cricket's High Performance Centre in the suburb of Lincoln, gave the Indians a glimpse of what they can expect in the weeks to come, reports Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: Feb 21, 2009 23:45 IST
Anand Vasu

"Maarne wala ball tha," Virender Sehwag said with a wide grin on his face after dispatching Praveen Kumar over mid-wicket. It was the first ball faced by an Indian batsman on this tour and Sehwag's approach had the Indian fans in splits at the nets of the Bert Sutcliffe Oval.

A window of fine weather opened up on Saturday afternoon just as the Indians began a training session that lasted more than three hours.

The nets, set at New Zealand Cricket's High Performance Centre in the suburb of Lincoln, gave the Indians a glimpse of what they can expect in the weeks to come. Of the four nets, one was particularly seamer friendly while the other three had the batsmen playing with caution with the ball stopping and then coming onto the bat.

While the team trained hard, leg pulling and laughter punctuated their efforts. A healthy number of fans, armed with cameras and video recorders, got closer to their idols than the public in India can ever hope to.

The biggest draw, unsurprisingly, was Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who followed his batting stint with some seam-up bowling.

Sachin Tendulkar, another favourite, and perhaps the most sought after for autographs, preferred not have a full net, settling instead for throw downs from coach Gary Kirsten. Tendulkar, who is not part of the squad for the Twenty20 matches, will first play a game 10 days from now, and should have enough time to get used to the conditions.

If the fan following at the nets was one unusual feature of the session, another was the complete absence of net bowlers. In this day and age, host associations roll out the red carpet for visiting dignitaries. Don't forget Australia's recent tour to India - they enjoyed customised net pitches, Ranji cricketers for net bowling and various other facilities at the academy in Jaipur.

New Zealand Cricket is certainly pleased to be hosting this Indian team - one of the stronger outfits to tour the country, but it was odd to see the team practicing with no net bowlers around.

Funnily, the BCCI was told that this might be an issue during the tour. In a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two boards before the tour, NZC had stated: "It is proposed that where possible a minimum of four net bowlers will be provided to the team. Every endeavour will be made to ensure that this request is met," the MoU, which the Hindustan Times has accessed, states.

"Net bowlers are often volunteers from club cricket who are invited by the host association to bowl to touring and home teams for their net practice. As such net bowlers are sometimes unavailable for Saturday, Sunday or on public holiday practice sessions due to their own playing commitments. We ask that you respect this situation when planning your practices." NZC identified February 28, March 1, 7 and 15 as the days when there was likely to be a problem.

This Indian team is not the type to complain, and on the day they did not, instead making the best of the opportunity to practice before the weather worsened again.