CHENNAI: Anil Kumble was quietly confident of his side’s chances in Sri Lanka, saying on Monday that India had the potential to win the three-Test cricket series.
“As a Test team we have done exceptionally well in the last year or so,” said the Indian captain after an intense three-hour session at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.
“Whenever we have gone abroad, we have got the right results. I am confident we will put up a good show and ensure a series win.”
Although several members of the team had participated in a week-long camp in Bangalore, Monday marked the first time the 16-man squad trained together. After two sessions of stretching, parted by a game of competitive touch rugby, the players were divided into three groups for fielding drills.
The squad worked on close catching and ground fielding for nearly 30 minutes before shifting to the ‘open’ nets — two strips cut in the ground’s wicket square.
Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were the first pair to bat. They were followed by Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, and V.V.S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly.
Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel took turns keeping wicket in the nets. Both glovesmen also spent time with fielding coach Robin Singh, who hit catches at them.
India coach Gary Kirsten monitored the training, clipboard in hand, when not throwing down spiteful bouncers from 16 yards.
“We have had some criticism for not practising enough, but this team actually practises a huge amount,” said Kirsten.
“With the amount of cricket being played, and if you throw six weeks of IPL into it, it’s a fine balance between resting and practising. We have eight days of preparation before the first Test — ample time for an important series.”
Kirsten said he was excited about the seam-bowling talent India will take to Sri Lanka. “It’s nice to have Zaheer back,” said Kirsten of the left-armer, who troubled Sehwag with in-duckers on Monday.
“He is experienced and knows how to bowl in sub-continental conditions. He is very creative. Ishant (Sharma) has been bowling well, and to have R.P. (Singh) and Munaf (Patel) in reserve, is fantastic.”
Kumble spoke of the importance of the bowling attack working in partnerships. “It is about team work, not just the spinners handling the load alone,” said the 37-year-old.
“It depends on what is on offer. Generally we know what the wickets are like. It is the responsibility of four or five bowlers who will play.”
‘We have the quality’
Asked if India’s formidable batting will be troubled by Sri Lankan mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, Kumble said, “From my interaction with some of our players, it seems that they had some difficulty in picking him. In Test cricket you have more time to work things out; we certainly have the quality (to do it).”
Kumble said the referral system – to be trialled in the series – would have to be played by ear.
“From what I gather, it is the fielding captain who takes the call. But if it is a leg-before decision, what the wicket-keeper or the bowler feels at that moment will be important because the captain might not be in position. We will see how it goes.”
The squad will depart for Colombo on Tuesday. The first Test begins on July 23.