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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Cricket

Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma ready for action
Sanjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
Southampton, July 25, 2014
First Published: 02:36 IST(25/7/2014)
Last Updated: 12:35 IST(31/7/2014)

It's a long tour and India's first five-Test series since 2002. At some point, they will face form and fitness issues. To be ready for any such eventuality, an 18-member squad has been sent to England.

While the playing eleven is doing a good job, for those in the reserves it will be important to stay battle ready as the contest enters the most challenging phase. How often have we seen players being suddenly drafted in and looking rusty? An example was how Ajinkya Rahane was out of rhythm on debut when he was asked to play the final Test in Delhi against Australia in 2013 after sitting out the first three.

The challenge for the fringe players is all the more because the team management has to spend all energy on keeping the playing eleven in top shape.

ON THE FRINGES

On this tour, that can be seen in every practice session. The likes of Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and R Ashwin are left to do pretty much their own thing while coach Duncan Fletcher and the other staff channel their energies on fine-tuning the playing eleven.

Hence, it becomes the responsibility of the individual to keep himself sharp. And it's impressive to see Gambhir setting an example. On Thursday, knowing that he would not be getting a hit in the main nets, Gambhir on arriving straightaway walked over to the reserve ground where he had batting practice for more than an hour.

After that, he was seen picking the brains of coach Duncan Fletcher and fine-tuning his trigger movement. 

India are here with a battery of seven pacers, but have only two batting reserves, Gambhir being the back-up for the top order and Rohit for the middle order. The stakes are higher for the Delhi opener.

Back in the mix after a long time, he has a point to prove in England after what happened in 2011. He had landed here with a big reputation, and his team heavily dependent on his starts. But it turned out to be a disastrous tour.

He took a blow on the forearm in the first Test and was forced to miss the next. When he returned, the rhythm was gone. The forgettable sojourn ended after another injury in the final Test when he took a knock on his head while going for a catch at the Oval.

STAYING FOCUSED

The desire to succeed is reflected in the intensity of his workouts. Even when the matches are on, he can be seen walking to the practice area with a support staff or bowling teammate in tow.

It's a confidence game. He's also working extra hard because he doesn't want to lose the rhythm he got into in the Indian Premier League. It came after a long period of frustration since the setback on the England tour of 2011.

Gambhir started the IPL season slowly. To his credit, he kept plugging away and eventually led KKR to the title with his bat and astute captaincy. Thus there is determination to hit the ground running, whenever the opportunity comes his way.


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