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Harbhajan Gives Zaheer A Batting Lesson

Bangalore, Feb 23 : Zaheer Khan  and Harbhajan Singh held centrestage at the nets  here at KSCA B ground on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the World Cup match against England, reports Times of India.
PTI February 23, 2011 12:17 IST
PTI
Bangalore, Feb 23 : Zaheer Khan  and Harbhajan Singh held centrestage at the nets  here at KSCA B ground on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the World Cup match against England, reports Times of India.  

After the customary warm-up game of football, which on the afternoon extended to nearly an hour, the two leading bowlers of the side donned their pads and stuck with them for nearly the whole session.

The reasoning is simple. If the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and so on are expected to be chip in the ball, why not have those with some sort of ability with the bat to do likewise despite their being tagged specialist bowlers. And it is not as if batting is being forced on these guys, one look at the nets and it will be apparent to anyone that the bowlers enjoy whatever time they get with the bat.

On Monday, there was even the somewhat poignant sight of Harbhajan, his pads still on, running up to Zaheer while the latter was up against some throwdowns from coach Gary Kirsten. And normally you would have someone telling the batsmen, especially a tailender, how to keep the short ball out of harm's way.  

Not so Harbhajan and not with Zaheer. Rather it was a lesson in how to hit such balls, that was handed out, Harbhajan indicating what needed to be done to pull the ball, asking Zaheer to lean forward and pull as against back, which he explained would result in the ball being skied and so best avoided. There was no mention of moving across though, Harbhajan making it clear that 'stand and deliver' was the better option. A bemused Kirtsen, who may have thought that it was best he had decided to quit after the World Cup, simply watched on.

The lesson over, both 'batsmen' continued to take turns hammering the ball all over.

The net session, an optional one, was attended by all but three members of the team, Virender Sehwag, S Sreesanth and R Ashwin, opting to rest. Two other members Sachin Tendulkar and Ashish Nehra too played no part in the outdoor activities, choosing to spend sometime indoors at the National Cricket Academy.

It was back in 2008 that the approach of the Indian team towards its net sessions underwent a change. Until then, the bowlers in the side, irrespective of their desire to bat, were hardly ever given a go at the nets. When they did get a chance it was always the part-time bowlers, as also some pretenders, whom the bowlers got to bat against.

This was somewhat in tune with the theory practiced by one of Mumbai's famous coaches, Vithal 'Marshall' Patil, under whom a certain Sunil Gavaskar learnt how to deal with away swingers. Patil's theory was that were the bowlers denied all chances to bat in the nets, they would be that much hungrier when they got a chance in a match.

It also had to with there not being enough net bowlers available to Indian teams of the past, more so on tours, a fact explained and rued by none other than Sachin Tendulkar when he was captain.

Somehow, under the then skipper Anil Kumble that part changed. In the camp prior to the 2008 Test series against the Australians it was very noticeable that people like Zaheer Khan, Hrabhajan Singh and Kumble himself were getting long stints with the bat and against the best of bowlers apart from themselves. Soon enough in the opening Test in Bangalore, it was Zaheer and Harbhajan who held on in the Indian second innings and forced a draw, a result the Indians then rode on to eventually win the series.