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The rain brings its fears

Indians in Durban set for practice game... but it?s wet, wet, wet there, reports Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 02:14 IST

When the heat was on, earlier in Potchefstroom and at the Wanderers this week gone by, India flew close to the sun and managed to get by without getting their wings clipped and falling to the ground. But when it has rained or the skies have loomed eerily grey, as has been the case through most of the one-day series, India have invariably gone and lost themselves in the clouds.

If an omen is what they were looking for in the run-up to the Kingsmead Test, this one will not make them happy — it rained for long hours on Wednesday night and after being overcast for most of the morning, the rains finally came down again by late afternoon in what was once called sunny Durban. At the moment, all you can see from the team hotel here are wet, grey streets, a wet, yellowish-grey beach and a choppy, foaming, grey sea — you get the picture!

So India's two-day practice match against a hurriedly put together KwaZulu Natal Invitation XI, scheduled to be held at the Northwood Crusaders Cricket Club here, might well not really take off.

It would be a shame if it doesn't, because the game, more of a central wicket practice of sorts than anything (given the quality of the opposition as top players are not available during this festive week here) will be a good chance to see how Munaf Patel copes with being on the field again. While the focus will obviously be on Munaf and whether he will be a 100 per cent fit for the second Test, the Indian think thank is also keen that Gautam Gambhir, who has not had any time in the middle so far, also gets a look in.

Given India's worries at the top, it is important that Gambhir, India's opener on standby for this tour, keeps his eye in. In any case, it cannot be easy just being a traveller. As Gambhir and Munaf seem to spend all their time off the ground together, it would be interesting to know what they're discussing and how they're keeping each others' spirits up.

At the same time, it is difficult to see how India's regular openers, Sehwag and Jaffer, both of whom have had a forgettable tour in both forms of the game so far, will not play, if this practice game happens. They definitely will. They will need time in the middle but India is likely to play 12 players to give as many people as much batting and bowling practice as possible. Anil Kumble might get a rest as possibly, will Sreesanth or Zaheer.

But then again, perhaps Dravid will want to keep them in the loop at least in small spells given that a lot will depend on them in Kingsmead. The wicket at the moment seems of the type that will probably give opening batsmen a bad case of the runs the night before but even though there are a few days to the Test, the wet weather will not help the groundsmen do anything about it.

Still, you have to suppose that South Africa, having seen what the Indian pacemen can do, will not be too keen on anything dramatic. The Proteas get here on Saturday morning but it might not be in their hands at all!


India: Rahul Dravid (c), Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Mahindra Singh Dhoni (wk), Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Virender Sehwag, VRV Singh, S Sreesanth

KwaZulu Natal Invitation XI: Rivash Gobind (c), Imraan Khan, Ross McMillan, Martin Bekker, Cedric Mabuya, Michael van Vuuren, Darren Smit, Robert Frylinck, T Pillay, Saidi Mhlongo, Ugasen Govender, M Serame

First Published: Dec 22, 2006 02:14 IST