By Ashish Shukla
Birmingham: Aug 8, 2011
A dispirited and pensive-looking Indians underwent a training session at Edgbaston cricket ground here with left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha turning up at the nets after joining the team as Harbhajan Singh's replacement.
As soon as the Indian players, without pacers Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma, trudged into the ground, coach Duncan Fletcher seemed to have suddenly turned pensive as he walked up to the middle and saw a moist and grassy pitch.
The curator Steve Rouse though wrapped his arm around Fletcher and apparently offered a few words of encouragement.
The two obviously share a certain bonhomie going back to Fletcher's stint as England coach in last decade.
The tell-tale signs of a team in the midst of an immense crisis after losing back-to-back Tests was apparent in the body language of the players and the team management.
Soon Fletcher's wards converged on to the middle, playing a round of football which lasted a bit longer than such sessions usually do. There were occasional sounds of whoops and shrieks but generally it had the appearance of a dispirited team.
With Praveen and Ishant being kept under the wraps, the Indian batsmen struggled for proper simulation of the fiery attack of England they would come up against in less than 48 hours in the third Test beginning here from August 10.
Three batsmen -- Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid -- were at once in the nets but they largely had to make do with the Indian spinners, including Ojha who has now joined the Indian ranks, and a couple of strong lads which the host association loaned to the visiting team.
Sachin Tendulkar went through his, by now, customary drill of squaring up to throw-downs. It was the turn of fielding coach Trevor Penny who responded to the great man's call.
Edgbaston is cold these days because of intermittent rains lately. It rained on Sunday and two days before that and there is more of it forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.
Indian batsmen clearly are under the weather and need a good outing against a quality attack even if it is in the nets. It does not appear feasible for the moment.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had announced after the second Test Trent Bridge that the "next 10 days are going to be extremely important". The developments in this span have indeed been significant but mostly unpleasant. Most batsmen are still without a useful knock under their belt and Zaheer Khan will not take any further part in the tour.
Down 0-2 in the four-match series, India cannot afford to lose the Edgbaston Test as in that case they would be toppled by England from the world number one spot in the ICC Test rankings.