Indian batsmen hop & skip to tackle bounce in South Africa
Indian cricket team, in its first practice session ahead of South Africa Test series, get a taste of the bouncy conditions in the Proteas landcricket Updated: Dec 30, 2017 22:34 IST
Ajinkya Rahane probably didn’t expect his first delivery of the South Africa tour to take off from good length. But when Rohit Sharma, batting in the adjacent net, was also made to hop a little, it was apparent that this may be the norm.
It’s summer here in Cape Town but the searing heat hasn’t sapped the life out of the practice pitches. Bounce is normal here. And while it may allow batsmen a better perspective when it comes to leaving a ball, the threat of seam movement will not make it an easy tour.
India chose to camp at the Western Province Cricket Club, not too far from the Newlands stadium, after opting out of the practice match at Paarl. Kohli’s reasoning was simple. “If you look at the wicket we are playing on right now, it’s not even going to be 15% of what we will get in the game. We understand that. There is no point wasting two days, guys going in, scoring quick fifties and coming out. We would rather have them do two sessions like today, get into the Test match zone and and test ourselves. We can try and prepare the wickets the way you want to. But if you are playing a two-day game there is no chance of changing the wicket at different times of the day. Here we have more freedom to put more water on the wicket, roll it, make it harder come tomorrow’s practice session and you have conditions you want. You are never sure whether you are getting quality practice games or not. We would rather have practice sessions that are in our control,” said Kohli.
Choosing an extended training session of more than three hours was indication of India meaning business on the first day itself. Even Rohit was urging one of the staff to turn up the pace. “I think the most important thing is to not get surprised by the pace and bounce,” said Kohli. “We have convinced ourselves that it’s going to be quicker and bouncier than back at home and you might get balls that may surprise you now and then. The most important thing is to put it behind you and focus on the next ball.”
Kohli knows there will be no favours extended to them after South Africa were served turners on their last tour to India in 2015. “Even the last time we played there was a lot of talk about we getting bounced out and we are going to struggle against the short ball. I think our batsmen stood up very nicely. On Day 1 of Johannesburg Test, we put up a great fight. We handled their bowlers pretty well, we made them work hard and we almost won that Test. We are prepared about what we are going to get here. We are under no delusions as to what we are going to be presented with. Come fifth of January we are ready for it,” he said.
Saturday’s training itself was a sum of many parts. While Rahane and Rohit tried adjusting to the bounce of the pitch, India captain Virat Kohli took his time to warm up before taking a few throwdowns and running off to the simulated match to field at second slip.
Shikhar Dhawan didn’t practise though there has been no news of any injury so far. With Dhawan not taking part, KL Rahul partnered Murali Vijay as Hardik Pandya and Mohammed Shami lined up to bowl. All this while Shastri kept flitting between the match and the nets to see how his middle order was coping with livelier pitches. On the sidelines, different players came in to hone their close-in fielding. With an entire ground and top facilities at their disposal, it looks like India are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
South Africa’s invincibility at home demands that too. “If you look before that, it’s always been South Africa, ahead of any other team,” said India coach Ravi Shastri. “It was a team that was in transition, but South Africa have always had good bench strength. The thing now, though, this will be a good contest. A lot of our boys want job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is when you get outside and score runs and take wickets. So there’s a challenge. They want that Test match to start as soon as possible,” Shastri said.