SIDE-ARMED after being side-lined. There might be little chance of Ajinkya Rahane getting a look-in for the second Test but that didn't prevent him from polishing his batting skills on Friday with the help of Sidearm Pro, a special ball throwing device.
During India's practice session here, Rahane, who is waiting in the wings to make his Test debut after playing 16 ODIs, had an extended session with Sidearm Pro, a curved device used for throw downs (see photo). The aim was to perfect his back lift and drives as two coaches sent down balls from almost 16 yards, instead of 22.
Rahane sweated it out as India's fielding coach Trevor Penney and the Hyderabad-based Tekkukandadai Dilip, a Level III coach, used Sidearm Pro to give him practice in a corner net at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium. The Mumbai batsman continued to give specific instructions to Dilip on what kind of deliveries he wants to face, after Penny shifted to another net.
According to the manufacturers of Sidearm Pro – there is also a Sidearm Club for the use of soft ball – a skilled coach can generate swinging and seaming deliveries up to 80 miles per hour with the device, which is about a foot-and-a-half long.
Penny, a former first-class cricketer from Zimbabwe, also gave some practice to Ishant Sharma, specifically on how to leave bouncers. At times, he sent down dummy balls to see how he positions himself to play the bouncer.
But Rahane, ever the perfectionist, had a much longer stint, with Penny and Dilip. Rahane, padded up and sitting nearby, was so eager to follow Ishant that he asked Penny how long he would have to wait. "I've given him [Ishant] 10 minutes,” came the answer.
But Ishant's stint was reduced to five minutes, and Rahane was only too happy to start what turned out to be a long session.
"Jaise kal kar rahe the, upper dalna (like we did yesterday, send full length balls),” Rahane told Dilip at the start.
Under the hot sun, the well-built Dilip diligently sent down about 70-80 balls with Sidearm Pro, as per Rahane's wishes. "Vary karte rahna (keep it varying),” Rahane further instructed. A few minutes later, the 24-year-old right-handed batsman said: "Yeh theek hai (now it's okay).” Dilip too did his best to encourage Rahane. "Good shot,” he said several times as the batsman drove effortlessly.
Rahane's search for perfection just didn't seem to end. Even after Pragyan Ojha walked up to the corner net for a stint, he told him: "Let's play six balls each alternately.” Ojha agreed, and they lived up to the agreement, and it was another long stint.
Ojha, too, gave specific instructions to Dilip, a BSc computer science graduate who is now attached with the Hyderabad Cricket Academy of Excellence.