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Tackling the unknown at home
N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times
January 18, 2013
First Published: 23:54 IST(18/1/2013)
Last Updated: 02:09 IST(19/1/2013)

This homecoming was kind of rude, something which MS Dhoni would not have anticipated. Having enjoyed two days of constant adulation since arriving with the India team to play in the first-ever international match at the new Jharkhand State Cricket Association stadium, the skipper got into serious business at the batting nets adjacent to the main pitch on Friday.

However, currently the best batsman in the squad was soon left wincing in pain after a delivery from bowling coach Joe Dawes thudded into his gloved right thumb. Dhoni left the practice holding the thumb as concern spread among his teammates that the injury could be serious enough to spoil the party for Ranchi's favourite son.

An India team official, however, allayed fears and said it was not serious enough to warrant even a precautionary X-ray and the only 'keeper in the squad would lead the side on Saturday. The India captain to would not want to miss out what will be a proud moment when he goes out to toss before his home fans.

Pitch Concerns
Although that was good news, the India batsmen may not be entirely happy with the way the practice pitch, two strips away from the one on which the match will be played, behaved. Dawes, a well-built man but bowling slow medium-pace from a short run up, extracted appreciable bounce from just short of good length. If the match wicket turns out to be as lively, it can pose a challenge to the top order batsmen who are yet to find their best form.

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Ravindra Jadeja also batted on the same strip for quite some time and was repeatedly beaten by Shami Ahmed, who bowled from a shorter run-up but the ball swung and seamed a fair bit.

Jadeja, who will be anxious to build on his all-round performance in Kochi and wipe out the feeling that the south paw is over-rated, betrayed a touch of concern in the home team's ranks as a pitch with some life can play into the hands of England.

Cautious
"It was good that there was bounce and seam movement in the practice wicket because it gives us good practice for the next game, which we will be playing in Mohali," he told a press conference.

"The practice wicket was little uneven but I don't think that will be the case with the match wicket. It has been rolled well, so the wicket will bind well and there will be good bounce. A bouncy wicket will be good for our game in Mohali."

But, repeatedly asked about the wicket, Jadeja confessed the hosts could well bat second if Dhoni won the toss, to get an idea how the wicket behaved. The other factor, which he did not mention, was dew that settled on the ground on Thursday evening. Although the match starts at noon and is scheduled to finish at 7.40pm, the team fielding second could face some problem with gripping the ball and footing on the outfield.

Jadeja is confident he can be more consistent with the bat and ball. "Earlier, I used to play wrong shots and throw away my wicket. Now when I get a chance, I make sure I bat till the end. And I stick to bowling stump to stump without experimenting much. I always think while bowling and have not changed that."

For England, every bit of discomfort to Dhoni will be good news as only he has been able to bind the second half of the innings. For India, extra life in the pitch could be a good opportunity to blood Cheteshwar Pujara, the batsman with the best technique and form combined in the squad.


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