Taunton: Anticipating that they will be tested with short-pitched stuff in the upcoming Test series against England, Indian batsmen on Thursday devoted time in finding ways to handle the James Anderson-led pace battery even as the tour opens with a three-day game against Somerset from Friday.
With the county resting most of its top players, the wicket as featherbed as it comes and forecast of rain-laden next three days, the spectre of Anderson is making Indians almost bypass the game against Somerset.
Anderson has 24 wickets from six Tests against India--20 of them of top order batsmen. He picked up a five-wicket haul at Lord`s on India`s previous visit in 2007. He has claimed Sachin Tendulkar 5 times from 6 Tests.
Thus it was little wonder that Gautam Gambhir spent as much time as he could in the nets adjacent to the centre pitch. Coach Duncan Fletcher watched him from the front, then slipped behind the nets and had a few chosen words of advice for the tremendous opener.
Gambhir appeared to practice against deliveries which bounced and left him. Time and again, he hopped on to his backfoot and angled down the bat in the gully area -- a realization that the quartet of Anderson, Steve Finn, John Tremlett and Stuart Broad are the tallest set of pacemen operating for one team in international cricket.
Sachin Tendulkar, the centre of all hype and anticipation on his 100th international hundred, looked bafflingly relaxed as he preferred the throwdowns from fielding coach Trevor Penny. Only, till he warmed up and faced up to India`s top medium-pacers and then kept at it for a long time.
The competition between the medium-pacers was palpable though Zaheer Khan, without any such worry, preferred to gingerly run up to the crease. He might sit out on Friday to deny England captain Andrew Strauss the practice he so desperately needs.
Somerset would do their own bit to deprive Indians of any worthwhile practice. Captain Marcus Trescothick is away, England`s one-day opener-wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter is unlikely to be around and the only fast bowler of any promise, Steve Kirby, could be missing.
The consolation, besides Strauss, could be young batsman of promise James Hildreth and Malaysia-born Arul Suppiah, who opens the innings but made headlines this season when he returned world-record figures in Twenty20 cricket - a haul of 6 wickets for 5 runs.
Returning to the Indians, Sreesanth didn`t hold himself back at all and looked around for nods of approval after he once claimed VVS Laxman. The slip cordon was given practice with tennis balls which swerves and could pop out if the hands are not kept soft.