Fielding on the agenda as the team goes through catching drill

Wet skies seem to be following the Indian team in its South African sojourn. A combination of overnight rain and damp spots at the Willowmoore Park meant that the first day’s play of a much-needed practice game was cancelled here on Friday.

Later in the evening, the Indian team’s media manager Dr. R.N. Baba sent a message: “Tomorrow match called off, we are training from 10.30 a.m. at Benoni.”

There was no inkling of a jinxed game when the Indian team left Johannesburg at 7.45 a.m., and arrived at the venue here at 8.25 a.m.. The rival outfit — South African Invitational XI — too trooped in but only bad news awaited the two squads.

A cluster of moist stretches on the outfield as well as at the top of the bowling mark at the Pavilion End forced the umpires Shaun George and Adrian Holdstock to state that the ground was unfit for a competitive match and with dark clouds rolling in towards the evening, it was a matter of conjecture whether any play was possible on Saturday.

Soon it became official that the match was over without a ball being bowled.

With just a few days left for the first Test at Johannesburg’s Wanderers Stadium (from Dec. 18), M.S. Dhoni's men did not want to waste their trip to Benoni.

They quickly slipped on their training apparel and had centre-wicket nets session and fielding drills that avoided the soggy areas of the ground when thankfully the sun was out.

Fielding coach Trevor Penney and coach Duncan Fletcher kept a close watch as the players went through a round of catches.

The extra-attention was needed as India has dropped a few catches in the just-concluded ODI series and recently R. Ashwin said: “We have got to do a lot of work in terms of catching the ball. The ball is definitely travelling faster here.

“Some catches are reaching you when you aren’t expecting them to reach (like) back home. In the lead-up to the Tests it will be very important. We will need to take as many catches as possible.”

Then the team had a hard stint on the main pitch with batsmen stepping out in pairs and bowlers operating as trios. Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay strode out first while Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Ashwin bowled.

The remaining sets ranging from Virat Kohli-Cheteshwar Pujara to Ravindra Jadeja-Ambati Rayudu, also batted while Zaheer Khan bowled and also mentored his fellow-seamers.

He was discussing the proper way of landing the feet in the final delivery stride with Mohammad Shami besides talking to Kohli, who faced him at practice.

Among the batsmen, skipper M.S. Dhoni and Ashwin were adventurous and played a few shots.

It was a session that focussed on the specialists as the tail did not bat and when the team embarked on its return trip to Johannesburg, little did it know that only another round of practice awaited it on Saturday.


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