Clouds of uncertainty continue to hover over medium-pacer Munaf Patel’s availability for the first Test against West Indies at Sabina Park starting next Monday.
The gangling medium-fast bowler from Gujarat was reduced to a spectator as his team-mates, including Test arrivals from home notably Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, put themselves to a vigorous work-out yesterday.
Coach Duncan Fletcher has refused to shed light on the reason for Patel’s inactivity in the last two team sessions, as well as on missing out on the final one-day international here on Thursday.
The only word the Zimbabwe-born coach has said is that, “Patel should be fit for selection for the Test.”
Patel was hugely impressive in India’s World Cup campaign as well as in the one-day series here, where he picked up eight wickets from three matches at 17.75 average.
However, he has not played a Test for India for over two years now and if the trend continues it would most likely pave the way for Praveen Kumar’s inclusion in the Test team.
In the practice session, coach Fletcher appeared keen to pick up the brains of Dravid and Dhoni.
Fletcher had said earlier that he was looking forward to learning from men with such wealth of experience.
Dhoni was among the early bats to pad up but then sat in the shade for long while others took their turn under a scorching sun.
The arriving Test specialists were impressively intense even though it has been less than 24 hours since they landed in the Caribbeans.
Openers Murali Vijay and Abhinav Mukund, particularly the former, spent a long time in the nets against both spinners and pacers alike.
The hosts, on their part, afforded good net bowlers to the visitors as all Indian batsmen had an extensive work-out.
VVS Laxman was the centre of attraction with his graceful strokes, while Vijay made some rasping drives.
Later Dhoni, alongwith the spin cordon of Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli, latched on to some sharp catching practice organised by fielding coach Trevor Penny.
Bowling coach Eric Simmons appears to have taken over the job of former coach Gary Kirsten who threw down countless balls at the batsmen. Simmons gave a good work-out to Raina, Mukund and Laxman with his throw-downs.
The first Test starts here next Monday.