The main focus ahead of Friday’s second Twenty20 tie against Sri Lanka should have been on how the India batsmen prepared to play on what is expected to be a slow pitch, after being surprised by two rookie pacers on a green pitch at Pune.
However, fitness concern wasn’t too far away as ageing pacer Ashish Nehra did not bowl a single delivery in the nets at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association stadium on Thursday.
The lanky pacer, chosen as the lead seamer for the ongoing three-match series, made a trip to the ground but chose not to bowl. The team’s media official though denied there was any fitness issue and said the injury-prone bowler will follow a different training routine.
Nehra, 36, was the only genuine pace bowler used in the first game, but he bowled only three of his quota of four overs in a match that India lost by five wickets.
While Nehra stayed away, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and young all-rounder Hardik Pandya got an extended run in the nets. Nehra had said in a recent interview that he skips the team’s football games ahead of training sessions to avoid injury.
“I would love to play football with the team, but I have had so many injuries in the past, so I try to keep football away from my schedule,” he had said.
However, his decision to skip bowling in the nets ahead of a crucial game raised questions.
Nehra finally made an appearance on the field after the rest had finished their training sessions. He had a short workout, which appeared to be more a test of reflexes than actual warm-up drills.
Nehra was a surprise pick for the T20 series in Australia, which India won 3-0. He had been in terrific form during the last IPL. He bagged 22 wickets in the 2015 season, emerging as the highest Indian wicket-taker in the league.
However, spin is expected to dominate on a dry wicket expected for the match and there was plenty of spin bowling with part-timers Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina also having an extended spell in the nets.
While one practice pitch was used for spin and the other for pace, as is the normal practice during training sessions, the number of players who bowled spin outnumbered those who bowled pace.
R Ashwin began with fielding drills but soon joined his fellow spinners in the nets. Yuvraj and Raina started batting only after finishing their long bowling spells. With a number of players in the Indian camp able to bowl spin, there was never a need for a net bowler who could bowl spin.