India’s preparatory camp for the Australia Test series kicked off in earnest at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, with the team put through a full day’s practice.
All 15 members of the squad were in attendance on Saturday, while L. Balaji and Irfan Pathan — here at the adjoining National Cricket Academy for rehabilitation — also sent down a few overs.
In what could be read as a sign of the opening combination India is likely to take into the first Test, Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay were the first batsmen to the middle at the main ground.
Vijay or Dhawan?
Vijay’s challenger for the opening slot is Shikhar Dhawan, a veteran of 81 first-class matches but someone who is yet to play his first Test. The latter has enjoyed a good Ranji Trophy season (461 runs at 51.22) while Vijay has the benefit of experience (12 Tests).
The former India opener Chethan Chauhan feels Dhawan should get the nod. “I prefer Dhawan as Vijay has been tried before and has not done well,” he said. “I’m not backing him because he’s from Delhi but because he’s fresh, in-form, hungry and motivated. Also, Dhawan will bring the right-left combination into play, forcing bowlers to adjust their line and length constantly.”
On the other hand, former India coach Aunshuman Gaekwad, also an opener, prefers Vijay. “He has all the qualities for opening the batting,” he said. “He plays side-on and close to his body, waits for the ball to come, and knows where his off-stump is.”
Sehwag — surprisingly bespectacled — and Vijay batted for close to an hour, the former carting spinners Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja over the ropes on more than one occasion. In an incident unconnected to Sehwag’s pyrotechnics, the temporary sightscreen at the stadium’s pavilion end caught fire from sparks from a welding job overhead. Training, however, was not interrupted.
In addition to the main wicket, India’s batsmen also took turns in the nets, facing tennis-ball throws-down from the fielding coach Trevor Penney.
Sachin Tendulkar spent considerable time here in the afternoon, with Virat Kohli for company.