Aakash Chopra

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is one of the best thinkers and writers on the game. Find out more at www.cricketaakash.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @cricketaakash

Gearing up for the Lord’s Test

Team India's last net session on the eve of the first test match had an air of confidence, while at the same time the air was also thick with nervous energy. The happy-go-lucky attitude, which is synonymous with most net sessions, got abandoned for the time being. The net session didn't last too long either, for most batsmen would have preferred getting the feel rather than spending those extra few minutes to correct a folly. At this juncture, it isn't about the skill-set but more importantly the belief that brings one there. As for the skill, it is bound to show up when summoned, only if one believes in it, completely.



Gautam went for the last set of throw-downs, Dravid shadow-practiced a few shots one last time, while Mukund spent a few minutes in getting the ducking and swaying away to bouncers right. And then one by one every batsman visited the square and inspected the pitch for the impending game. Each one of them would've then drawn an outline for their respective game plans to suit the conditions. But since it's Lords with the tricky slope, most batsmen would've also made some crucial mental notes. These may have included, not going back while batting at the Nursery End and also covering their stumps before deciding to let one go to the wicketkeeper. Similarly, they would've also drawn a mental line outside off-stump on the other end too, for the slope would take the ball away from them after pitching.



The last practice session must have been followed by a team-meeting too, most probably at the hotel, in which the broader plans would've been discussed -the coach would define the specific roles and goals for individuals and the team, while the captain and a few senior members would have chipped in with their wisdom and experiences. The team would've also spent both quality and quantity time deciphering England's bowling attack and finalizing plans for every batsman. Every individual must have been assigned a specific role to help the team cause. For example, both Praveen and Harbhajan would've been asked to play the donkey's role of bowling a lot of overs, while Ishant and Zaheer would've been asked to go for wickets etc. Batsmen must have been reminded one final time about the importance of partnerships and the value of making it count once set.



The following morning would invariably bring butterflies in the stomach irrespective of the player's stature. Everyone would go through his set routine, which is a part of the preparation. The warm-up session would see a lot of chatter and energy, which works as a vent to the pent-up emotions but soon the calm would prevail again. Every player would tick the boxes one final time and head for the pavilion convinced that their preparations are spot-on and that they are ready for the battle.



The openers and the batsman at number 3 would keep a close eye on Dhoni walking out wearing the India blazer with English captain Strauss for the toss. The atmosphere of the dressing room would depend solely on the outcome of the toss and its affect. If India is batting first, the dressing room will go quieter to provide enough space and peace for the batsmen. But if the team is bowling first, the mood would remain informal with fast bowlers getting their ankles taped or taking that last minute rub on the back or shoulder.



Half an hour between the toss and the start of play would pass like a flash. The next thing the boys would know is that they're be standing in the middle and waiting for the umpire to call 'let's play'.

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