India in SA

Kirsten’s ‘3 000 balls’ plan

2010-12-07 19:48
Indian big-hitter Virender Sehwag. (Gallo)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – India coach Gary Kirsten wants his keynote batsmen to each face “two to three thousand balls” under South African conditions in the lead-up to the first Test against the Proteas at Centurion from December 16.

That is the target he has set for them, no doubt motivated by the knowledge that his No 1-ranked side will not have the benefit of a warm-up match before the three-Test series gets under way.

Cape Town-born Kirsten began the process of acclimatising his troops with a small, advance group of the squad’s more rookie players – batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and seamers Jaidev Unadkat and Umesh Yadav – at Claremont Cricket Club here on a hot, cloudless Tuesday afternoon.

The venue also serves as headquarters for his Performance Zone Academy, and the former SA Test star afterwards pronounced as “excellent” the net surfaces made available.

They had true and decent bounce and good carry, which ought to be at least close to what the team can expect at SuperSport Park later next week.

“It’s really just about getting the players used to much bouncier surfaces than they are accustomed to back in India,” Kirsten told Sport24.

He was not shy to remind the 22-year-old Pujara, as he weaved out of the way of the occasional sharp bouncer, that “this is the medicine for the next six weeks” and the coach weighed in himself with a few “chucked” short deliveries.

Kirsten also whizzed down a few softer-ball missiles with the aid of a tennis racquet.

“I want each of our batsmen to receive 2 000 or 3 000 balls before the Tests start,” he said. “(Pujara) has probably already ticked off close to 500 in a couple of hours today.”

Kirsten confirmed that the immeasurably more experienced Rahul Dravid had left India on Tuesday and was expected at Wednesday morning’s next session – another middle-order veteran in VVS Laxman also did the long haul on Tuesday.

The full Indian squad is expected to be training together by Friday.

This is very likely to be the last South African enthusiasts see of Dravid on our soil: the 147-Test veteran turns 38 in January.

Cavalier opener Virender Sehwag had been tipped to start with the younger players at the Constantia venue on Tuesday, but Kirsten said he had been delayed by two days by “a bit of an illness”.

Indian reports said Sehwag had picked up a viral infection.


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