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Dhoni skips practice session

Dhoni

Calcutta/London: With just two days to go before Team India take the field at The Oval to save the series, the most important man in the Indian camp, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was absent from Wednesday’s practice session.

However, if sources are to be believed, there’s nothing to worry, because Dhoni didn’t skip the practice session because of an injury. One learnt that Dhoni just took a day off and visited a firing range for a shooting session. In a strenuous five-Test series, rest is the key word.

While Dhoni was absent, Ishant Sharma, who missed the last two Tests which India lost miserably, was very much present at the practice session.

As the Indians regrouped at The Oval on Wednesday in a bid stage a turnaround after back-to-back defeats at Southampton and Manchester, a fit-again Ishant symbolised the team’s eagerness to find back the rhythm which helped them script a memorable victory at Lord’s.

Ishant came to The Oval and bowled for about half an hour. After recovering from a leg injury, Ishant has gradually increased his bowling spells at practice. It will be interesting to see how his body holds up after Wednesday’s session at the nets. If he is fit, he will be replacing Pankaj Singh in all probability.

Ishant was Man of the Match at Lord’s and India’s bowling has not quite looked the same after his injury.

Wednesday’s session was India’s first on-field training after they succumbed to an innings and 54-run humiliation in the third Test on Saturday, Day III of the match. Rain came incessantly in Manchester after that and the players kept to the team hotel taking some time off from cricket.

With Dhoni missing, the usual football session at practice was replaced by a game of handball with white cricket balls, reported a cricket website. Coach Duncan Fletcher and Virat Kohli addressed the players before the session.

Opener Gautam Gambhir, who struggled on his comeback at Old Trafford, should get another chance at The Oval. The left-handed batsman spent a long time at nets on Wednesday, with Trevor Penney giving him throw-downs. Shikhar Dhawan, whom Gambhir replaced in the XI, didn’t get much batting at the net session.

It’s important to note that India are yet to register a 50-run opening stand in the eight Tests since they left home for South Africa late last year.

India played the fourth Test with five specialist batsmen, followed by Dhoni. Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin did the all-rounders’ job. But with Stuart Binny getting a look in at the nets on Wednesday, one wonders if there would be any change in the final XI on Friday.

There was some slip-catching practice towards the end of the session.