Conditioning camp for probables begins

NOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni does the talking as Gautam Gambhir watches at a press conference. — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

NOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni does the talking as Gautam Gambhir watches at a press conference. — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash  

Sports Reporter

BANGALORE: Hope, optimism and a sense of camaraderie reigned at the National Cricket Academy as the conditioning camp for the Indian team probables commenced here on Tuesday. The players underwent fitness tests while trainer Gregory King kept a close watch. It was also a day when some of the fresh set of probables met coach Greg Chappell.

However all the short-listed players were not present as V.V.S. Laxman and Murali Kartik are scheduled to arrive later in the week while the quartet of Sourav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Mongia and Irfan Pathan is busy on the county circuit and have been exempted from the conditioning camp. The fast bowlers too were given a rest day after their week-long camp had concluded here earlier on Monday.

Optimistic duo

While the players gradually settled into their fitness routine, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, known for his hard hits, work behind the wickets and the long hair, spoke in tandem with Gautam Gambhir, the self-effacing opener who does his own aggressive bit despite living under partner Virender Sehwag's shadow.

Dhoni set the initial pace and said: "Hopefully we should win the triangular series in Sri Lanka and start the season on a positive note."

The Jharkhand lad who scored a blistering hundred against Pakistan in a one-dayer at Visakhapatnam last season, also stressed that he is flexible about his batting slot in one-dayers. "It depends on the captain, coach and the management. If they want me to open, I will open or if they want me to bat at No. 3 or No. 7 I am also available for that," Dhoni said.

The wicket-keeper batsman, who plundered runs and helped his side Sham Bazaar win the P. Sen Trophy at Kolkata, said that it was a valuable experience.

Test of fitness too

"It was a severe test not merely of one's ability but also of fitness because we played in extremely hot and draining conditions. It gave me great satisfaction to come through the physical demands and deliver with the bat," Dhoni said.

The well-built 23-year-old is however conscious about his role as a wicket-keeper. "Batting and wicket-keeping are equally important facets of my game. It's tough keeping to our quality spinners, especially when there is bounce and turn. That's something I have been working on," Dhoni said while adding that consistent performances in one-dayers may help him break into the Test squad.

Diminutive Gautam Gambhir is also in his formative years at the International level. The Delhi opener has played eight Tests that yielded 486 runs with a 139 against Bangladesh at Chittagong being the high point. Gambhir however has been unable to convert his starts.

Mental strength

Gambhir admitted: "I know I have to convert my starts. It's primarily a mental thing and it is about being strong in the mind and being determined not to throw your hand away. You need to focus a lot harder and your concentration has to be at its peak. I must keep working on these specific aspects if I have to be consistent in Tests."

Gambhir also reiterated that he will continue to bat in a positive vein. "I have always played positively and it is this approach that has brought me where I am today and I will continue to do so in the future too. It's true that I have played both forms of the game and be it Tests or one-dayers, my approach will always be positive. After all, it's important that whatever be the nature of the game, you must get the team off to a good start," Gambhir said.

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