Kirsten acclimatising his troops

2010-12-09 00:00

CAPE TOWN — India coach Gary Kirsten wants his keynote batsmen to each face “two to three thousand balls” under South African conditions in the lead-up to the first Test against the Proteas at Centurion from December 16.

That is the target he has set for them, no doubt motivated by the knowledge that his number one-ranked side will not have the benefit of a warm-up match before the three-Test series gets under way.

Cape Town-born Kirsten began the process of acclimatising his troops with a small, advance group of the squad’s more rookie players — batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and seamers Jaidev Unadkat and Umesh Yadav — at Claremont Cricket Club this week.

The venue also serves as headquarters for his Performance Zone Academy, and the former SA Test star afterwards pronounced as “excellent” the net surfaces made available.

They had true and decent bounce and good carry, which ought to be at least close to what the team can expect at SuperSport Park later next week.

“It’s really just about getting the players used to much bouncier surfaces than they are accustomed to back in India,” Kirsten said.

He was not shy to remind the 22-year-old Pujara, as he weaved out of the way of the occasional sharp bouncer, that “this is the medicine for the next six weeks” and the coach weighed in himself with a few “chucked” short deliveries.

Kirsten also whizzed down a few softer-ball missiles with the aid of a tennis racquet.

“I want each of our batsmen to receive 2 000 or 3 000 balls before the Tests start,” he said. “[Pujara] has probably ticked off close to 500 in a couple of hours already.”

Kirsten confirmed that the immeasurably more experienced Rahul Dravid had left India on Tuesday along with middle-order veteran VVS Laxman.

The full Indian squad is expected to be training together today.

This is very likely to be the last South African enthusiasts see of Dravid on our soil: the 147-Test veteran turns 38 in January.

Cavalier opener Virender Sehwag had been tipped to start with the younger players at the Constantia venue on Tuesday, but Kirsten said he had been delayed by two days by “a bit of an illness”.

Indian reports said Sehwag had picked up a viral infection.

Meanwhile, the South African bowlers won’t be unleashed on a ‘green mamba’ wicket in the first Test.

“I’m definitely not going to prepare a pitch where the Test will be over within three days,” said groundsman Hilbert Smith.

“But it will be a pitch that will definitely offer something for the bowlers on the first morning.”

“I want to prepare a pitch where it won’t just be an automatic choice to bat if you win the toss,” the experienced Titans groundsman said.

Of the 15 Tests that have been played there, SA has won 11.

They have lost only one, the controversial one against the English in 2000; three were drawn, also against England, with only one not influenced by rain.

He has already received a call from Proteas coach, Corrie van Zyl, about what is required for December 16.

He didn’t want to reveal what Van Zyl requested for the first Test, but said they spoke the same language and sang from the same hymn book.

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