Virender Sehwag is being touted as the messiah who will pull India out of the rut and no wonder once the opener trudged into the indoor nets here, the waiting media contingent started minutely following each and every movement.
Such was the clamour from electronic media to record every move of Sehwag that Gautam Gambhir’s intense knocking session facing throwdowns from fielding coach Trevor Penny and monitored by coach Duncan Fletcher largely went unnoticed.
While Sehwag is returning from a shoulder injury, Gambhir had been rendered out of action because of the impact his right elbow received due to a ferocious Matt Prior sweep in the first Test at the Lord’s last month.
Another injured cricketer Zaheer Khan kept himself away from indoor nets but his recovery has been on expected lines and he has begun to bowl with growing vigour over the last three days.
All three will be keenly observed in the two-day match against Northamptonshire beginning tomorrow.
India would look to field all three of them in the third Test in Edgbaston on August 10 even if their presence and productivity is reduced to minimum in the two-day tie.
The tie will be of equal concern for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni who needs to do well with both the willow and big gloves.
And so it must be for Suresh Raina who has again got his critics going over his handling of intimidating fast bowling.
Both Dhoni and Raina were two early turn-outs at the nets, along with Sehwag and Gambhir, as the visitors look to regain belief and respect in the eyes of millions of fans.
Within an hour, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman too were showing up at the indoor nets as a determined India announced its intention to set its house in order.
The wicket in the middle, long engrained in the Indian mindset as one favouring the tweakers, is likely to be a complete contrast and extremely encouraging for fast bowlers.
There is an even spread of grass in the middle and the pitch is no longer one of old where it turned and bounced from the first morning and where Bishan Singh Bedi in the past, and Kumble in the 90s, picked up wickets by the bucketful.
It’s also a place where Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann earned their spurs. The host, leaders of the Division 2 county table, is unlikely to roll out a red carpet in reception especially of the cricketing kind.
They understand their role is to keep the visitors down to their present situation of confusion and chaos and they are determined to do it to the best of their ability.
Among the hosts roll, is one the Indian fans would be familiar with Chaminda Vaas of Sri Lanka who is now retired from international cricket.
Right-arm pacemen Jack Brooks too is highly valued, more so against the visiting teams as he did with his impressive show against the Australians two years ago. Lee Daggett and David Lucas, a right and left-arm quick respectively, both six feet and above, are unlikely to make it easy for the Indians.
In a strange way, this intensity on the part of hosts should suit the visitors who are looking to simulate the conditions they surely would face in Edgbaston, come August 10. Hindu