‘The key is to stay at the wicket and accelerate towards the end’

first_imgThe weather has been reasonably kind to us since we arrived in England, except for the first two days which were cold and windy.It meant that initially we had to be content with an indoor synthetic surface at Leicestershire’s Grace Road county ground. Outdoor nets began soon after and I,The weather has been reasonably kind to us since we arrived in England, except for the first two days which were cold and windy.It meant that initially we had to be content with an indoor synthetic surface at Leicestershire’s Grace Road county ground. Outdoor nets began soon after and I was impressed with the professionalism of the groundsmen.They pass on specific instructions to the coach regarding the use of practice wickets so that they don’t get spoilt. They are very particular about using the pitches and are constantly working on the ground to maintain a high standard of facilities.Finally, as planned, we played a match against Loughborough University. The team was a collection of youngsters, all keen to do well against us. We played the match in a public school spread over 30 acres and the facilities were stunning.They had 12 nets for the younger boys and six nets for the seniors, an indoor swimming pool, a gymnasium and a sports shop. It would be great to have such facilities at home.It was agreed that India would bat first to get as much practice as possible. It worked well, for Sachin, Azhar, Robin and Ajay had useful outings. Only Saurav fell early to a brilliant catch. Unfortunately the bowling was average and Sachin didn’t relish it much though he scored a brisk 64.The wickets were slow and the ball wasn’t coming on to the bat. The outfield too was soft and the ball wouldn’t travel. The Indians, Azhar and Sachin in particular, stunned the crowd with some stunning shots – not surprisingly one Sachin six hit the gymnasium wall almost 80 yards away.advertisementI called back the batsmen once they seemed to be hitting the ball well; 290 was a fine score. Then the bowlers took over and I was pleased with their line and length. Prasad was simply brilliant, Saurav bowled effectively and Jadeja picked up two wickets in three overs.He just has to believe he has a golden arm. Ultimately they were out for 98 runs. Our second practice game was against the Leicester Second XI at their excellent county ground. We rested Sachin, Srinath and Kumble to give Ramesh, Mohanty and Chopra a chance (Khurasia had twisted his ankle).Final stretch: Ajit Agarkar, Javagal Srinath and Ajay Jadeja tune up for the South Africa tieThe bowling was better and we lost three wickets for 60 runs, whereupon Azhar, Jadeja and Mongia batted with a lot of confidence to take us past 200 runs. Robin unnecessarily had an argument with a left-arm spinner after hitting him for two sixes and got out.The bowler came out the winner. These are the sort of situations where we have to use our experience and keep our cool. Nevertheless, Saurav with three wickets led the bowlers who polished them off for 130-odd runs.Considering the prevalent conditions, it seems we have to keep our wickets in hand and accelerate later on. I have been stressing that the batsmen shouldn’t be impatient. The most interesting aspect so far has been the meeting of the managers and captains at Lord’s at the recently built media centre that resembles a spaceship about to take off.There was a team photograph of the captains – only the Scottish skipper was missing, probably held up in the traffic on the highway. I found Brian Lara the most humble of the lot and I was impressed when he came up to wish me.Later we were briefed about the playing conditions and about security, especially after the recent bombings in London. The ground at Lord’s was looking as pretty as ever. Hopefully we will do well enough to play here during the tournament.last_img

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