Friday, December 24, 2010

When Champions need to play like Underdogs

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Zaheer Khan is going full tilt at the nets. Its clear he is desperate to play the Boxing day test.

A few feet away, Cheteshwar Pujara is getting a good net session with the bat. Some local Durban trespassers were recruited to bowl at him. Pujara wanted someone who can bowl consistently at 140 Kph and above, full length and swinging; with an occasional short sharp rising ball thrown in. With Zaheer having a go at the other net; that ruled out any reasonable option for Pujara.

At one end of the ground, Suresh Raina is seen giving, what appears to be slip catching practice to Umesh Jadhav, Jaidev Unadkat and Wirdhman Saha.

Right next to the 2 nets; VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar are having their pre-match mental conditioning sessions with Paddy Upton. Paddy is in Laxman's face, literally, screaming "Think Australia, See Steyn and Morkel and hit Australia"....

Sachin is actually on his own; shadow batting. Practicing his shots to imaginary balls. How he is going to leave; how he will cover drive; how he will drive straight back past the bowler. How he will look away even as Steyn snarls at him.

And how he is going to celebrate after reaching some personal milestone.

After making sure no one is looking, he rehearses how he wants to celebrate all his upcoming personal milestones. On that list are

  • The most number of runs he has scored in December. 
  • Highest average - ever - including Bradman's, for all runs scored on a Sunday 
  • Most Boxing Day Tests played in the Southern Hemisphere by a person from the Northern Hemisphere
  • and a few dozen more.

Also on the list are Rahul Dravid's milestones; which he will make sure he will not mention to Rahul.

He crosses out Rahul Drvaid 12000 runs but almost can't control the spontaneous inner smile.

Speaking of Rahul, he is huddled with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, coach Gary Kirsten and leading wicket taker of the team Harbhajan Singh in what is roughly turning out to be a strategy session.

Rahul Dravid: Bad idea, Gary asking Raina to give slip catch practice
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (intervenes) : Over there Rahul...Do you see Viru, Ishant, Murali and Sreesanth?

Out in the center of the ground, there is a bunch of players, hoping to get fielding practice. That is if Raina can get one throw down from Gambhir out in the field. Seeing so many balls going in the general area where slips would have been, Umesh Jadhav, Jaidev Unadkat and Wirdhman Saha who had accidentally come to the ground in search of a picnic spot, decided to hone their slip catching skills

Gary Kirsten: You think Rahul, I am a fool to ask those 3 zonal passengers to practice their slip catches on purpose?
Rahul Dravid: Okay, Sorry guys....but what do we do about winning at Durban? Any ideas?
Harbhajan Singh: This time MS we should bowl first....why do they call you lucky never seem to win any toss. This time, win toss or lose toss; we bowl...
Mahendra Singh Dhoni: And how do we guarantee bowling first if we lose the toss?
Harbhajan Singh: If Smithie invites you to bat; ignore him, act as if you did not hear or better still; declare your first innings right then and there. Lets do a Centurion on them.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni: Bhajji, interesting idea...I will think about it....Okay guys lets move on....

Dhoni has a pained look but he is polite on the surface. Kirsten hasn't so much as even acknowledged Bhajji's presence. Dravid acts, as if he is considering the idea and is in deep thought

Then suddenly Dhoni, separates himself a bit from the group and preaches...

 Mahendra Singh Dhoni: We need to play like underdogs. Our batting will take care of it self. Its our bowlers who can't take the pressure of being #1. The only way I can get the bowlers to bowl to their potential is to get some pressure of expectation out. Let me tell them that as per the new ranking we are now #3. I think that's all we need to tweak. We are a champion batting side but perpetual underdogs when it comes to bowling.

Rahul Dravid and Gary Kirsten, nod in vehement approval. Harbhajan is miffed.


straight point said...

i have always felt that its criminal to the passengers with team to draw them from picnic and shopping malls to the ground in the name of preparation...

Vidooshak said...

We need to let them steal some socks.

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