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Caught at the nets

Weather gods smile on the visitors as players go outdoors for evening practice, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.
By Atreyo Mukhopadhyay | Hindustan Times, Melbourne
UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2008 01:55 AM IST

Inclement weather has followed the Indian team into Australia’s sporting and cultural capital. It was overcast and blustery in the morning and afternoon on Thursday with light drizzles making things difficult for cricket. The sun smiled on the visitors later in the day and allowed them to have an outdoor nets and fielding session in the evening.

Those to have joined the squad after the Test series got their first proper practice session in conditions they expect in a match because before the Twenty20 tie and the ODIs in Brisbane they were forced to restrict themselves indoors, barring the few overs of play possible in the rain-marred matches.

They all looked happy and hungry, the fast bowlers especially, who had had very little to do so far. Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan all charged in at full steam and posed a few problems for the batsmen. That led to a hitch of sorts because there were just three local bowlers including a spinner, which meant extra work for the Indian quicks, who didn’t have enough energy left to bowl to all the batsmen.

So Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to turn his arm over for longer than usual, Sachin Tendulkar was seen bowling seam-up and even irregulars like Suresh Raina had to chip in with a few deliveries to ensure that the batsmen got enough practice.

Cricket manager Lalchand Rajput said they had asked for eight local bowlers and got just three because Thursday was a day when these bowlers have to turn up for club practice. "We had told the local organisers we need eight of them on all three days before Sunday’s match. After finding out that it wasn’t possible today, we have told them to make sure we get them on the next two days,” Rajput said.

Tendulkar seemed to be the one most affected by this and after coming in padded up, some knocking against Rohit Sharma was all that he got.

He was the last one to enter the nets after bowling a lot and Rajput said the master himself had advised that all others got proper practice before him, since there were not enough bowlers. “Our bowlers were tired, so he felt that others should bat before him.”

Rajput was not reading much into it and said the team was happy to get a chance to come out of the indoor nets. "You all saw how keen the players were and most of them did all that they wanted to. We had a positive outing with the bat in the second game (against Sri Lanka) and this session will help us approach the next game in better shape."

Jokers on the wings
There was a stray incident that could have triggered some trouble, but fortunately things didn't turn worse. The practice nets at the MCG are outside the ground and open to public viewing, although viewers can't get near the players. People can watch from a distance and it was no different on Thursday.

Of the ones passing by, a bunch of locals seemingly high on something suddenly came running to one side of the fencing and started shouting 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie'. It didn't stop there. They were also heard speaking among themlseves where the 'monkey' was apart from uttering the 'f' word before going away.

India's logistics manager Russell Radhakrishnan was quick to notice and was seen speaking to local officials. A few security personnel were deployed on that side of the nets immediately and nothing untoward took place. Radhakrishnan said it was not an issue, but it could have snowballed into one had the offenders not vanished as quickly as they had come.

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