Nets-savvy Indians forced indoors
The Indian cricketers crossed over from Ireland to mainland UK, travelled through Scotland and then through the length of England to the southern coast, but to no avail — rain chased them all the way.
India's afternoon session of nets at the lovely Rose Bowl, home to the Hampshire county team, was cut short by a burst from the heavens. The team had managed to squeeze in about 90 minutes of practice outdoors before the rain started.
Things did not look too hopeful as the first drops fell, dark clouds lent their hue to everything on terra firma, a stiff breeze made the trees, the flags, the pennants fly, but the Indians stayed put. They continued the nets for 15 minutes in the rain before the downpour became very heavy.
Happily, the Rose Bowl has excellent indoors facilities, though not quite matching the ground itself in prettiness. There at the nets, secured by big men in black, in a huge hall divided into pitch-wide lanes, the Indians worked hard for another 90 minutes.
VVS Laxman, Wasim Jaffer and Anil Kumble, the Test specialists who joined the team on Wednesday, worked hard at the nets.
Earlier, Jaffer had a very long session outdoors and an equally long fielding session as well.
At net No. 6, Dinesh Karthik stood up high at the bowling machine, feeding balls to Laxman. As the two practised, they kept up an animated chat in one of the southern languages.
Further left, Yuvraj Singh batted, smashing the ball around, the sound of the bat hitting the ball magnified to a shattering din indoors.
Kumble did not bowl too much, bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad instead gave him some catching practice after he was done.
All in all, it seemed a fairly relaxed outfit, one that was utilising the time to gel before getting down to serious business later in the month. On the day, the team support staff, generally preoccupied in some or the other team-related work, too joined in the fun and turned their arms over, while some Hampshire players too had a go at the Indian batsmen.
The Indians had a few visitors, including Liam Dawson, a 17-year-old pro who's played for Hampshire. "Where's Sachin Tendulkar?" Dawson wished to know.
Two others he was looking out for were fellow teenagers Ishant Sharma and Piyush Chawla --- the former was in another part of the practice facility, the latter already back in India. Chawla, Rohit Sharma, Ajit Agarkar and Robin Uthappa, part of the one-day team only, had left for India on Wednesday.
The team joked around, the newcomers were advised by the coaches (bowling and fielding). Later, they relaxed in the restaurant at the reception, had a coffee or tea and chatted a bit while, outside, the rain continued, creating a dull, monotonous beat on the canopy roof overhead. Young cricketers, some schoolboys, hung around watching, obviously soaking in the atmosphere.
Team manager Chandu Borde phlegmatically said before and after the rain, that the team had had some useful practice. "It was unfortunate that the outdoor nets were washed out, though," Borde said. "Fortunately, we have excellent practice facilities here."
India play Sussex from Saturday in a four-day practice game. The team, fortune's favourites after their wins over South Africa in Belfast, now also seem to be the rain's favourites. They'd hope to get the latter off their back, as soon as possible. When the going's good, you're itching to play.