Virender Sehwag laid to rest any doubts over his fitness by virtually sprinting out to the nets at the P Sara Oval here on Wednesday, just 24 hours after having sat out an entire practice session.
The Delhi swashbuckler had been hit on the thumb at this very ground nearly a week ago, and hadn’t batted since then, having been rested for India’s resounding victory over England in the final Group A match at the R Premadasa Stadium on Sunday.
With that concern well and truly taken care of, India hit the nets for another gruelling three-hour session, where the emphasis was once again on playing the short stuff that the Australians are likely to dish up when the two teams face-off in their first Super Eights game on Friday.
Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and even Suresh Raina could be seen honing their backfoot skills against net bowlers and teammates alike, though with the extra pace of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson, it could be a different proposition altogether in a match situation.
In his half-an-hour stint at the nets, the hitherto out-of-form Sehwag looked to be stroking the ball very well indeed. A number of deliveries found the middle of the bat, and he was especially severe on Piyush Chawla’s leg-spinners, depositing many over long-off.
To fit Sehwag into the line-up, MS Dhoni is likely to revert to his tried-and-tested seven batsmen-four bowlers combination.
That means R Ashwin is set to rejoin the XI alongside fellow off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, all-rounder Irfan Pathan and one of Zaheer Khan or Lakshmipathy Balaji. The spinners, especially Harbhajan, are what Australia will be emphasising on in the lead-up to the game, given the history of their run-ins with the Turbanator.
“Of course, Harbhajan is going to strengthen the team. He is a class act and has been there for a long time. He is someone that we respect, but when you play Twenty20, you have got to be aggressive as well and try and put him under pressure,” veteran Aussie batsman Michael Hussey said after the team’s practice session earlier in the day.
The Australian batsmen, who haven’t yet had much of a test thanks to Watson’s brilliance at the top of the order and the conditions, could be seen working hard on their game against the spinners, to avoid a repeat of England’s embarrassing collapse.
“He ( Harbhajan) did a fantastic job the other night, but I think we can play better than the English team,” Hussey said, referring to the Jalandhar lad’s figures of four for 12.
“I do suspect that they will bowl a fair bit of spin to us; if not just the frontline spinners, may be the part-timers will also bowl at us. It can be a tough challenge.” Hussey said the team realises the importance of a winning start in the Super Eight ‘group of death’, which also features South Africa and Pakistan.
“That first game is massive. We are coming to a very important stage of the tournament and probably that first game is very crucial. If we can get to a winning start then it puts us in a good position and gives us a good chance of making it to the semi-final,” he said.
Hussey also said that to underestimate Sehwag on the basis of a few quiet innings was wrong.
“I would never say that Virender Sehwag is out of form. He can miss out a couple of times but we all know that every time he misses out he is closer to the next big one,” Hussey said.