The Telegraph
Thursday , April 3 , 2014
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Far from the crowd, India have a blast


Dhaka: Wednesday evening at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah, 15-odd kms from the Bangladesh capital, had a complicated sky above it. Part of it was gloomy, threatening to burst open anytime, while the other part was painted in a happy crimson hue, courtesy the setting sun.

Somehow, the scene mingled well with the Indian squad who practised for over two hours at the venue. On one hand, Yuvraj Singh’s absence from the practice session raised doubts over his fitness; on the other, the vibrant mood of those present proved that all’s well with the only unbeaten team in this edition’s World T20 so far.

One isn’t sure why the Indian team management chose Fatullah as their practice venue. The other three semi-finalists — Sri Lanka, West Indies and South Africa — sweated it out at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur, which will host the last-four stage matches.

India didn’t have a media interaction on the day and so most of the things were at the mercy of assumptions. If being far from the maddening crowd helps Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men focus better on the crucial match against the Proteas on Friday, there’s nothing to complain about. If maintaining a secrecy about their approach is the plan, they have every right to do so.

With four wins from four matches, the Indian team, especially Dhoni, is having far less, in fact almost none, questions to answer.

That’s a welcome relief from the recent past when the Indian captain, who led the team to two World titles, was often put to test even beyond the cricket field.

Pressure, whether in a cooker or in the head, always boils things up.

Lack of it ushers the courage to do things differently. And if it is in cricket, it not only frees your soul, it also gives you the happiness to free your arms. One had that feeling while watching Dhoni bat at the nets on Wednesday.

Yes, it was nets straightaway on the day, no barefoot soccer. A game of football by the Indian cricketers on Tuesday led to Yuvraj suffering an ankle injury, which forced him to skip practice on Wednesday as a “precautionary” measure.

All the Indian batsmen practised mostly big-hitting, against both the pacers and the spinners. Dhoni and opener Rohit Sharma, who has done decently so far in the tournament, appeared to have longer stints than the others. But while Rohit was happy playing all types of shots, Dhoni, it seemed is planning something special for Friday as he unleashed a flurry of ferocious hits, mostly over the top.

With the attention divided between Fatullah and Mirpur, not many from the media were present to witness the Indian team practice. But the handful who swam the infamous traffic snarls of Dhaka to reach Fatullah spent most of their time trying to evade the ‘Dhoni shots’ than taking down notes. Long-off, long-on, deep mid-wicket... There was no safe place to hide. One envied coach Duncan Fletcher, couched safely behind the nets as is his practice.

While the scribes escaped unhurt, India pacer Mohit Sharma wasn’t as lucky. He was bowling to Dhoni at the nets when one of the captain’s thunderous shots caught him off-guard and the ball hit his ankle.

The impact saw Mohit leave the practice session midway, limping out to sit in the dugout. Apart from facing the regular bowlers, the Indian batsmen also batted against some throw-downs. How can one forget the South African pace attack, led by Dale Steyn!

But it’s not pace that drew attention in the Proteas’ practice session earlier in the day. It was spin, with Shane Warne helping out Imran Tahir at the nets.

Did Warne tell Tahir about the nightmares that a certain Sachin Tendulkar used to give him? Or did he help Tahir dream big?