HYDERABAD: A genteel late winter, early afternoon sun was beating down at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Tuesday. The strip to be used for the Test wasn’t covered (an indication of the strength of the sun). India were being put through their paces on the field, with both Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid overlooking proceedings. Even if it was an optional training session two days out from the beginning of the series, Jasprit Bumrah was the lone absentee.
Looking on from the outside, one big potential surprise was easy to miss. The hosts’ slip catching practice. Shreyas Iyer, Yashasvi Jaiswal, KL Rahul and Shubman Gill were the designated catchers but the man with the gloves was Dhruv Jurel. Jurel, called up for the first-time, was at ease and pulled off several acrobatic saves. The 23-year-old UP lad, who did feature for India A against England Lions (he had made a 50) less than two weeks ago, is a late bolter and is now well in with a chance of making a debut at the first time of asking. Saying that, KS Bharat, the current incumbent in home conditions, did have an extended net session with the bat in the practice facility near the stadium’s entrance. Skipper Sharma, who was batting in the next net, also had a few words of advice for Bharat at one time.
That, in essence, was the big news to emerge from the Indian camp. Coach Dravid confirmed that one of Jurel or Bharat will keep as the management have decided to play KL Rahul as a specialist batter in this series. “Rahul will not be playing as a wicketkeeper in this series,” the coach said in a press conference. “Obviously Rahul did a fantastic job for us in South Africa and really played a big part in us drawing that series. But considering it’s five Test matches and playing in these conditions, we felt we would go with another keeping option, considering the weather, considering the conditions. So obviously it’s a selection toss-up between the two other keepers that we have.”
While Rahul kept wickets in South Africa, Bharat was the man behind the stumps against Australia last year. If Jurel does get the nod, he will do so on a what is likely to be a surface that will aid spin. With the caveat that a lot can change over two days, the surface had some dry spots, especially in a good length area for spinners on both sides. Interestingly, there were also some dark spots in the middle of the strip. “It looks a good one from what I’ve seen,” Dravid said. “May spin a little bit. How quickly and how fast, I’m not sure. But might spin a little bit certainly as the game goes on.” An insider this daily spoke to said there are chances of the match going into a fifth day but he didn’t sound too confident.
Local spinners trouble Root
At one point during Joe Root’s net session in the morning, he turned around and hit the stumps with his bat. Visibly annoyed, he f-bombed himself. One of the Hyderabad U-19 bowlers had induced a false stroke and the visiting batter was not pleased with himself. He was in the middle of a torrid phase where his trademark sweep shots didn’t come off. One ball fizzed off the surface, beat his edge before uprooting the stumps. Another one found the edge. After the net bowlers made way, James Anderson went full tilt and Root finally managed to get some momentum. Elsewhere, Ben Stokes seemed to be moving freely enough while Mark Wood bowled from a shortened run-up.
After the session, Wood said they will continue to play the brand of cricket that has won them lots of followers . “We will adapt, we have got a captain that always wants to take the game forward so it should make for an entertaining series.”