Calcutta: With Brijesh Patel in the chair, the national selectors have already posted a record by picking 36 probables for the pre-season (conditioning) camp in Bangalore.
Actually, phase I (August 14-26) will itself see another record: There won’t be any cricket on those 13 days!
“The focus will entirely be on fitness which, today, is an absolute priority for us… Therefore, even nets won’t be conducted,” informed the city-based Board president Jagmohan Dalmiya.
Speaking to The Telegraph on Wednesday, he added: “Cricket proper will be dealt with in phase II (September 1-6). I think it’s best this way…”
According to Dalmiya, three among the probables will be dropped after the fitness-specific phase and their slots will go to big guns Rahul Dravid (Scotland), Mohammed Kaif (Derbyshire) and Yuvraj Singh (Yorkshire).
Quite sensibly, Dravid and Co. have been excused till September 1. The end of phase I, by the way, will coincide with the selection of the three Challenger sides.
The Challenger, of course, is slated to be held (in Bangalore, for the sake of ‘continuity’) from September 10-14.
Significantly, while “three-four” desi physical trainers will be assigned to share newly-appointed Team India trainer Gregory Allen King’s workload from August 14-26, coach John Wright will also have ‘help’ in the exclusively-cricket-phase spanning six days.
Just as well, as it would be beyond even the most exceptional individual to handle 36 players at the same time. Moreover, King (Adrian le Roux’s replacement) will probably get some breathing space on his ‘debut’.
“We haven’t, however, yet thought about those who will specifically function as co-coaches… In any case, even in the Challenger, coaches will be required for the two sides besides India Senior,” the president pointed out.
[Incidentally, no decision has been taken on the desi trainers either.]
Logically, Sandeep Patil (coach on the very recent A tour of England) and Ashok Malhotra (stand-in Team India coach for a brief while in Dhaka) should be asked to head for Bangalore.
But, then, not everything is logical where the Board is concerned.
Going by their travel plans, Wright and King will reach Mumbai in the early hours of Thursday and straightaway leave for Bangalore. As for physio Andrew Leipus, he will report on August 10-11.
An agency report (filed from Mumbai on Tuesday) that the trio wouldn’t be around till September 1 couldn’t have been more off the mark.
Team India’s 2003-2004 engagements begin with the Ahmedabad Test against New Zealand, from October 8.
Meanwhile, the three-nation academies’ meet in Sri Lanka, from August 15-22, has been deferred till September 13-21. Apparently, the rain-factor has forced this postponement.
The hosts apart, India and Pakistan will be seen in action.