Everyone associated with the St Kilda Cricket Club will tell you stories of how Shane Warne learnt his cricket here. They will also tell you how he actually aspired to become a footballer and was quite a handy player at under-19 level. Cricket won the battle in his career, but a similar contest between football, Aussie Rules Football to be precise, and cricket is now on over the historic ground of 160 years.
People want Australian Football League matches to return to the Junction Oval, the name that has stuck with the locals, but officials are aspiring to hold matches of the 2020 World T20 here. Located around 10km from the Melbourne Cricket Ground, this venue hosted training sessions of India and South Africa on Wednesday.
Warne paid a surprise visit during South Africa’s nets on the eve of their semifinal against India at last year’s Word T20 in Bangladesh, spending some time with leg-spinner Imran Tahir, giving him tips about bowling the right length in subcontinent conditions.
But more than Tahir getting his act right when the teams face off on Sunday — it could decide the Group B toppers eventually — South Africa are more concerned about the Indian spinners this time, especially after R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled well against Pakistan. “They asked me specifically to bowl the line Jadeja does,” said a left-arm spinner of Indian origin who bowled in the Proteas nets. Knowing that Gary Kirsten, under whom India won the 2011 World Cup, is now a consultant with the Proteas, such specific routines are not surprising. The former South Africa opener, now the Delhi Daredevils coach, was at the IPL auctions in Bangalore two days ago and arrived in Melbourne only on Wednesday morning. As was the case during his India stint, he hit the ground running. India know the Kirsten factor and will have to account for that.
All-rounder Farhaan Behardien was the man in focus and the training was on how quickly he resumed his stance for the next throw down from Kirsten, something he used to do a lot with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag to improve footwork. This was something the India players missed after he left. India now has young Raghavendra from the National Cricket Academy with the team specifically for that. Behardien was barely able to move after 12 minutes of that drill. For the rest of the session, Kirsten was in intense conversation with skipper AB de Villiers.
At the other end of the park, Hashim Amla joined trainer Gregory King after almost reluctantly finishing his batting at the nets. He does alternate days of boxing and power training and it was the latter on Wednesday. Four 20m sprints, 10 push-ups, 20m walk and repeat.
Hussey’s last match
Former Australia batsman Mike Hussey, who has been roped in as batting consultant by the Proteas, said his stint has been satisfying but he would not travel with the team after the India match due to prior commitments.