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India hit high notes on fitness ahead of ODI cricket series against Sri Lanka

India have firmly stayed focused on finding a new high in terms of fitness ahead of the five-match One-Day International series against Sri Lanka, starting on Sunday

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 18, 2017 21:35 IST
India vs Sri Lanka,Virat Kohli,Indian Cricket Team
Virat Kohli (C), Indian cricket team captain, warms up during a practice session at the Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium, ahead of the ODI series against Sri Lanka.(AFP)

The usually fickle weather in Sri Lanka in July-August was relatively benevolent as the Indian cricket team crushed the hosts to complete their first-ever clean sweep of an away Test series.

With the Sri Lankan team in disarray, the Indian side has firmly stayed focused on finding a new high in terms of fitness ahead of the five-match One-Day International series, starting on Sunday with the first game at the Dambulla International Stadium.

READ | Virat Kohli continues to top ICC ODI rankings for batsmen

On Friday, the first series training session for Virat Kohli and Co, ahead of their limited-overs series, was an intense affair with the players waiting out a brief stoppage at the batting nets due to a downpour.

Soon after, the Indian skipper, the fittest player in the squad, took the lead in the team’s new mantra of raising fitness levels in the build-up to the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.

Stripped to their waist, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul were put through the beep test – the original version before the advanced ‘yo-yo’ version was introduced. Both batsmen covered the different distances between markers, making sure they timed their runs in keeping with the beeps.

READ | MS Dhoni faces acid test in Sri Lanka ODI series with eye on 2019 ICC World Cup

Virat Kohli (R) with former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni during a practice session at The Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium in Dambulla. (AFP)

It severely tested both, and the profusely sweating batsmen kept at it with trainer Shankar Basu monitoring the test.

Soon, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the seniormost player in the squad, joined and started doing his running routine between markers placed adjacent. Dhoni seemed drained by his short routine and then held an intense discussion with Basu.

READ | MS Dhoni in focus at training as India gear up for ODI series vs Sri Lanka

It is clear that India, ranked No 3 in the ICC ODI rankings, are favourites against Sri Lanka, ranked No 8 in the list and it was understandable the team’s focus was on improving its level. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina were reportedly omitted for the India-Sri Lanka series as they didn’t meet the high fitness standards set and coach Ravi Shastri has said agility will be the key going forward.

“When the time comes for India to field a side for the 2019 50-over World Cup, we should have the best fielding XI in the world. Only the fittest of the lot will survive and thrive going forward and that’s right up there in the list of priorities.”

Batsman Manish Pandey, fresh from leading India A to the Tri-series win in South Africa, is confident India would come on top in the limited-overs series as well.

“A couple of things we have in our favour, we whitewashed them in the Test series, so they might be a little down. But this is where we have to focus and keep playing our cricket well, and do our basics right. If we do that we are hoping to have a good one-day series too.”

READ | Sri Lankan cricket’s transition grinds to halt at India roadblock

But the team’s focus on Friday was on fitness rather than tactical discussions.

“We had a meeting and spoke about it (fitness) for an hour and everybody is happy with it. From the senior-most guy, MS Dhoni, to the junior-most Kuldeep Yadav, everybody is happy (about pushing fitness levels). If it is an advantage for me, I would love to take it up and work hard.

Asked about the routine of Kohli and Rahul after the batting nets, he said: “Everybody has their own thing to do, individual warm-up and training, whatever helps to take our game to the next level. This is what we do the whole year; it’s not just the cricket we play. The test we have, at least twice a year, we all prepare for that as well.”

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 21:10 IST