India's one-time adversary has taken on the form of an invaluable ally. Team India's coach Gary Kirsten has welcomed the first contingent of India players for the tour of South Africa, to his cricket academy in Cape Town. Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Umesh Yadav and Jaidev Unadkat constitute the advance party that will practice on hard firm, bouncy wickets at the academy. They will be up against just such conditions throughout the tour.
"We received a brief to prepare pitches that are similar to the Centurion surface," said Martin Brand, the patron for the Claremont Cricket Club where the academy is.
The Indian batsmen will have to adapt to the quality of the pitches quickly if they are to successfully negotiate the barrage of short-balls that the South African speedsters are itching to hurl at them. Meanwhile, the bowlers will have to learn to extract pace and bounce from the wickets without being able to avail of much lateral movement.
Gary Kirsten is keen that the Indians make the most of their practice sessions which will unfold through this week, as they will have no practice matches in the lead up to the first Test at Centurion beginning on Dec 16. India will be under a considerable amount of pressure going into the series, considering they have won all of one Test in their last 12 such encounters in South Africa.
Kirsten's academy has readied a total of seven pitches for the Indians to use, four of which lie on the practice field. The academy will provide fielders for the Indians on Friday and bowlers from the club through the week. But India will be deprived of any of the frontline bowlers of the Western Province like Vernon Philander, Rory Kleinveldt and Monde Zondeki.