| Sachin Tendulkar in Benoni on Wednesday. (AP)
Benoni: Anil Kumble’s return to one-day cricket and the pressure it brings on his bowling colleagues will be the focal point of India’s day-night tour opener against a South Africa A at Willowmoore Park here Thursday.
Kumble has been dusted off the shelf and put in the one-day mix after India’s recent horrendous run in the limited-overs format. His experience and nagging accuracy have made his fielding travails a minor issue. Suddenly, his World Cup hopes no longer appear just a dream.
Kumble’s presence though will not make life any easy for India’s other World Cup aspirants. Harbhajan Singh’s inevitable presence would further turn the screws on the medium-pacers.
Zaheer Khan’s return would stir up the pot for the likes of Sreesanth and Munaf Patel, and not to forget Irfan Pathan.
[Meanwhile, the BCCI sought to downplay the controversy over the unavailability of the team blazers and ties prior to the squad’s departure, saying it had happened because of a communication gap with their sponsors.
[“It happened because there was a miscommunication with Pantaloons. We thought they would deliver them to the players and that’s the reason we had not asked them to carry their old ones. They will be sent to South Africa soon,” secretary Niranjan Shah said from Rajkot.
[“What has happened cannot be set right. But it is not a big issue,” said chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty.]
The game thus could be instructive in gauging the team’s plans ahead of the World Cup. The competition between the medium-pacers would only intensify and only at the end of it would one know who has been left standing.
India would take no chances with their batsmen and all the top ones are most likely to be paraded in the middle.
Everyone, from Sachin Tendulkar to Virender Sehwag to Rahul Dravid, would be keen to hit the ground. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s elevation in the batting order would also be watched with keen interest.
Anticipating a barrage of short-pitched deliveries during the series, Indian cricketers sought to sharpen their skills against bouncing balls in the first net session Wednesday.
The batsmen tested themselves on short-pitched deliveries, especially the ones aimed on their body and heading down the leg side as this is the area they expect South Africans to bowl.
Some sparring techniques were polished against deliveries rising and aimed outside the off-stump.
Coach Greg Chappell’s absence due to food poisoning left each one to his own device. The Australian met his appointment perfectly on arrival on Tuesday but apparently woke up unwell Wednesday morning.
In his absence, Dravid tried his best to explain to others how to make the most from the net session. A bowling machine was also there during practice.
INDIA (from): Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh.
SOUTH AFRICA A (from): Alviro Petersen, Morne Van Wyk, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Ashwell Prince (captain), Jacques Rudolph, Vernon Philander, Johannes Van Der Wath, Roger Telemachus, Thandi Tshabalala, Dale Steyn, Neil Mckenzie, Arno Jacobs, Albie Morkel, Alfonso Thomas.