The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lack of practice grounds irks India
- We seek competition from ourselves: Greg Chappell
Virender Sehwag takes a break during practice in Dambulla on Thursday

Dambulla: The touring Indians have been hit by the hassles of finding practice grounds ahead of Saturday’s tri-series opener versus hosts Sri Lanka here.

The Dambulla stadium, it appears, had been off-limits for the tourists, but their persistence resulted in squeezing two hours in the nets this morning.

After it looked like Rahul Dravid and his men would have no opportunity to have a feel of the venue even once before the match, the tourists managed to convince the authorities to allow them a noon practice session Friday.

“At some stage we had decided to go along with the situation and skip the practice altogether Friday,” said Sanjay Jagdale, manager of the Indian team. “But then it is the eve of our first match and the boys want to check themselves out.”

Initially, Indians’ practice schedules were arranged at Kurunagela Stadium, some 50km from their hotel in Dambulla, but a practice match Wednesday brought home the rude issues of travelling. “The boys were too tired just reaching and coming back from the venue. We spoke about it and realised it wasn’t feasible to come here everyday,” said Jagdale.

So the hunt to get hours booked at the Dambulla stadium began. Only it wasn’t easy and met with resistance from local authorities. “They even pointed out that the Sri Lankan team was playing a practice game at the stadium Friday.

“They looked like carrying out their bluff before V.V.S. Laxman pointed out that the nets were located outside the Dambulla stadium and they should be available for practice.”

Laxman himself was one of the first ones to use the nets and check out his troublesome back. He didn’t bat in a vigorous fashion ' in fact nobody did except for young Suresh Raina and the boys tended not to exert themselves.

Jagdale had an explanation for it. “We will be playing two back-to-back matches Saturday and Sunday ' there is no point in stressing ourselves so much ahead of the tournament.”

One person to catch eye in the nets was Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The flamboyant wicketkeeper-batsman gave no hint of suffering from a leg sprain and indeed enjoyed himself with the ball. He worked up a tidy pace and indeed troubled Raina no ends up with his leg-cutters.

Coach Greg Chappell seemed to enjoy the sight of it and said “flexibility” with the players added depth in a team.

It has been the case throughout the history. The more flexible you are, the more depth it provides to the team. “That’s why I have been looking to have a bunch of 15-20 players ready for the gruelling season ahead.

“I want replacements to be ready and I want alternatives when somebody is injured or is out of form. The team shouldn’t suffer because of such disruptions,” remarked Chappell.

Chappell again stressed that he was not overtly concerned as to who of the two rival teams, Sri Lanka and West Indies, need more attention from the Indians.

“Frankly, we seek competition from ourselves. We are trying to improve and if we can keep doing it, the results are bound to fall in place.”

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