Mohali: With just two days to go for their high-voltage World Cup semi-final clash against arch rivals Pakistan, the Indian team on Monday underwent a strenuous three-hour net session which was mainly devoted to batting.
After a couple of days rest and a few optional sessions since their dramatic five-wicket victory over defending champions Australia, the team got down to serious business at the net session at the PCA stadium this afternoon with all the batsmen devoting enough time to fine-tune their strokes.
The players trooped in at around 3 pm and headed straight to the nets at th PCA which has excellent practice facilities. Sachin Tendulkar, who is just one short of completing a phenomenal 100 international centuries, was the cynosure of all eyes as he had an extended session at the nets with his new bat which has already generated considerable interest.
With the PCA track expected to assist the fast bowlers, Tendulkar asked two net bowlers to pitch the ball short at him as he practised the cut and the upper cut shots. The two bowlers were asked to pitch the ball on a plank placed in the middle so that the ball skidded and rose sharply.
Although it was still not known whether express speedster Shoaib Akhtar will feature in the Pakistan team, Tendulkar was not taking any chances and was apparently preparing for his short-pitched stuff.
Initially, Tendulkar`s net stint was focused on these deliveries as he essayed the cuts and upper cuts with ease. He then asked a left-handed bowler to bowl at him and he dealt with the angles without much difficulty. While Tendulkar occupied one of the nets, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, who was clad in a white T-shirt unlike his colleagues who wore the red practice apparels, were at the other strips.
The champion batsman batted for about 45 minutes before taking a break during which he was seen `hammering` his new bat to make it match worthy. Sehwag, who soon joined him at the bench, and the video analyst of the team then took turn to knock the bat.
Yuvraj Singh, who is having a dream World Cup with four man-of-the-match awards in his kitty, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin were among those who were in the second batch at the nets. Coach Gary Kirsten threw down the balls at Yuvraj who seemed to middle the ball well as he played a flurry of strokes. At times, Kirsten walked down to have a word with him.
Tendulkar then returned for his second stint at the nets and it was Kirsten who bowled to him. The star batsman asked Kirsten to bowl at certain lengths as he practised his shots. After his batting session was over, Kirsten and Tendulkar had a lengthy discussion as they watched the other teammates practice.
Even as the batsmen had a gruelling session, bowling coach Eric Simons kept an eye on the bowlers as they went about their paces. S Sreesanth, who has found himself on the bench after a disastrous opening match against Bangladesh, bowled at a brisk pace from a long run up while Ashish Nehra also looked quite nippy.
Simons was seen talking to both Nehra and Sreesanth, apparently giving them some useful tips. Pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, understandably, did not exert too much at the practice session. Mike Horn, the renowned South African explorer who has defied odds to achieve his goals, was also present at the practice session and was seen interacting with the players.
Horn, who had given motivational speeches to the players before the World Cup, has joined the team ahead of the crucial game against Pakistan on the request of the team management.