SPORT

Camp concludes; Ganguly pleased as punch

BANGALORE Aug. 26. Team India is flying high on fitness. A long season beckons and Sourav Ganguly stressed that fitness holds the key to enhancing team performance. "As a captain it is great to see the side getting fitter,'' Sourav told the media at the conclusion of the conditioning camp for probables at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Tuesday.

The Indian captain expressed his satisfaction over the camp's progress. "The players have done the training schedules required to be fit for International cricket, wonderfully well. When we start the camp for cricketing skills (Sept. 1 to 6), this camp is definitely going to help, especially when it comes to improving the standard of our game,'' he said.

Ganguly also reiterated that the niggling injuries of Sehwag, Nehra and Harbhajan are not a cause for concern. "Injuries are part and parcel of the game. It is good that they were injured during the off-season. The injured guys are as fit as anybody in the team. Once they recover from their injuries it won't take much time for them to get back to their fitness in terms of their running skills and sprinting skills. We will wait and see and there is still two months for the Test against New Zealand,'' he said.

Meanwhile coach John Wright clarified that Harbhajan has completely recovered from his spinning-finger injury. "I need to clear this. Harbhajan is not injured. It is just that while talking to the selectors and Andrew, we felt that the best way for Harbhajan to be introduced to the season is perhaps in playing the longer version of the game rather than play the Challengers. There is no problem with the injury. He will be playing in the Irani Trophy. He is fine,'' Wright later told the media.

On the conditioning camp, Wright said, "we have definitely seen a rise in training standards and attitudes. Greg (Gregory King, trainer) has done a tremendous job and has fitted in well with the boys. Andrew Leipus (physio) has carried on his excellent work. I am very happy with the attitude and commitment shown by the boys. At the start of the camp, some were fit and some needed to get fitter but everyone has improved during the camp.''

Wright also said that Dravid, Yuvraj and Kaif — who missed out on the camp owing to prior commitments to the English County season — were as fit as any other player in the camp. "Dravid has always been one of our conscientious trainers. Kaif has been training hard and Yuvraj's training habits have improved tremendously. And if there are any problems, we have the men here to set it right.''

Physio Andrew Leipus stressed that Sehwag and Nehra were progressing well. "Ashish and Sehwag's rehabilitation is coming along nicely. Ashish is coming back from surgery so we are going to monitor his bowling. Viru has been told to rest for six weeks and that is starting back to the English season. And we are gradually increasing his net-time and go from there. I don't want to commit him to the team and then pull him out at the last minute. I will progress him slowly as well,'' Leipus said.

The newly-appointed trainer of the Indian team - Gregory Allen King - also praised the players' attitude towards training. "I have seen a team working real hard, I have seen the fitness levels improve immensely. I am happy with the way the guys have worked. It is difficult to enjoy doing fitness but I think they enjoyed the camp,'' he said.

The conditioning camp had its most vocal support from Wright. "It was very necessary that we had this camp. We hope to see some very good cricket during the Challengers. We do all this (camps) to improve the standards. We are not running around here for nothing,'' signed off Wright.

The probables will assemble here on September 1 for a six-day cricket-skill camp which will serve as a lead-up to the Challenger Series commencing here on September 10. Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Sairaj Bahutule and R. Powar will attend the preparatory camp. The above-mentioned players missed the conditioning camp as they were busy with their English County engagements.

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