Leicester: India witnessed a mixed start to their two-and-a-half month long tour to England even as rains played spoilsport in their first three-day practice game against Leicestershire here.
While two out of the three days were affected by rain, the only positive to take out of the match for the visitors in their batting performance. India`s top-order was able to spend good time in the middle on day one. Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara all scored half-centuries, while Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma too played confidence-boosting knocks.
Only Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli missed out, but the duo would be eyeing at India`s next practice game to be played at Derbyshire next week. But what would worry India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher the most is the below-par showing of the bowling department against Leicesterchire.
In the absence of veteran Zaheer Khan, the bowling attack led by Ishant Sharma, who has past experience of playing in English conditions, looked ordinary. Leicestershire batsmen hammered the Indian bowolers into submission, racking up an impressive 349 for five in only 62 overs in reply to the visitors` 333 for four scored on the first day.
Even though it is too early to question Indian bowling unit`s capability, the conditions at Grace Road yesterday were very conducive to swing and seam bowling.
Indian bowlers failed to utilise the conditions and gain proper confidence ahead of tough challenges ahead. While Pankaj Singh, Mohammad Shami and Varun Aaron bowled well in patches, none of them could really get on top of the young Leicestershire batsmen and prevent them from scoring.
Ishwar Pandey and Bhuvneshwar Kumar couldn`t handle the conditions too well either, struggling with their lengths while Ishant had a totally off-day inspite of bagging two wickets later. India will definitely need to look for instant remedy, if
they want to bury the ghosts of a disastrous tour of 2011.
A first step in this direction has already been taken by the team management and asked for Rahul Dravid`s help ahead of the first Test in Nottingham, starting July 9. The former India batsman has a tremendous record in England and also led the side to a Test series win here in 2007.
It is a significant move as Dravid is not only expected to mentor the current batting line-up but also provide useful tips to the bowlers in handling the conditions and share coach Fletcher`s workload as this a massive tour for the Zimbabwean.
"Everyone has their ups and downs, everyone involved with cricket goes through such situations. As the coach, you have your ups and downs just like the players, and you have to believe that you are helping the players. That is your main achievement, taking players forward, and in doing so if a result comes out it, then a result comes out of it," Fletcher had said ahead of the Leicestershire game.
Only three players from that disastrous 2011 trip have survived and with new faces making their spots in the Indian Test squad for some time now, it can be ascertained that the transition process has finally come to an end. For India, it is time to win in overseas conditions and the five Tests -- against an English team that is undergoing its own transition -? provide ample opportunity to chaive just that.
"Every Test series you play is very, very important, because we are judged on every Test series. Playing England is just as important as playing Sri Lanka or going away to play South Africa. International cricket is very important and that is why we go out there, and we don`t try to lose matches. So we will go all out to win this series," Fletcher had said.