At 25, Rishabh Pant has years of top flight cricket left in him. He batted from start to finish during the nets, but a place in the eleven still seems like a distant reality.
Both are at different stages of their lives — Karthik is doing some special ‘blind practice’ so that people don’t criticize his detention in what could be his last major tournament.
As he mustered a powerful throw, he seemed to be in pain and took off his head gloves and looked at his ‘underwear’.
In Pant’s case, there was passion and fury of a youth in his batting session as Rahul Dravid spent maximum time looking at his batting.
At times he treated Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj with utter contempt. Other times he played and missed but didn’t leave the nets.
On one of the coldest days in Perth, the focus of India’s net session was Karthik’s unique hitting drills under the supervision of fielding coach T Dilip.
Blind Drill is a specific holding drill that is done to increase alertness as keepers are blinded by batsmen when the ball comes to them at the last moment.
How does it work?
Dilip held a pair of red and white markers at least four feet apart and put a white towel on them. While Karthik crouched behind the imaginary stumps, Dilip from the other held a slant which is used to give sharp catches and hit the balls between the two path markers and in such a way that it is deflected by the towel.
The towel is like a batsman covering the ball, and even if he misses it, the keeper will see the delivery at the last moment.
This training is specially done to get the reflexes in order when someone like Axar Patel, who bowls his deliveries at a faster pace, beats the bat.
Karthik missed an easy chance against the Netherlands and could only track the ball when it came close to him at the last moment.
The drill has twofold benefits – it helps quicken the reflexes and improves footwork.
The second set of the drill was with the large kit bag after the tag was removed.
Now Dilip was lobbing the ball down the leg side and a crouched Karthik needed nimble footwork despite being wrong-footed and collecting the wide-leg side balls when bowlers lost their line.
Later, Karthik practiced catches from awkward edges.
Here the team used a special rubber bat with rough and rough edges. The moment the ball hits those rough cuts, it can fly in any direction – inside edge, outside edge, front lob or just nose dive.
It was mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, who batted left-handed during the drills.
In fact, coach Rahul Dravid instructed net bowlers (spinners) to bowl fast and fast into the stumps when Karthik kept going.
“We have been instructed by Indian coaches to skim it less and bowl fast and keep it inside stumps without much spin for Karthik to keep. We are not used to bowling so fast in Grade cricket, but it was good fun,” said one of the net bowlers, Khilesh.
While Karthik was doing his drills, Pant was batting and batting the other nets.
One can tell he is hurting. You’re not a champion player if you don’t get hurt by snobs.
After the two-hour session, when everyone thought he had packed his kits, he took out his batting gear and asked Nuwan Senaviratne to bowl him for another 15 minutes.
It looked like he didn’t want to leave Optus Stadium even though the temperature was around 10-12 degrees.
He obliged the selfie hunters as well as the journalists. Shaken hands with familiar faces and exchanged pleasantries. But it was clear that he was hurt by being left out of the playing XI.
“Rishabh bhai open kaarlo, India ki zindagi badal jayegi,” shouted a fan from the other side of the fence. Rishabh looked back and started walking.
Even if he wants to open up, but is the team management listening?
Chetan, chairman of selectors, watches training from a distance
The chairman of selectors, Chetan Sharma, was present during the optional practice session but quietly watched proceedings from a distance.
Unlike some of the series after he became the coach, Sharma was not seen voluntarily going into the nets or talking to the bowlers.
He instead chose a safe distance behind the fast bowler’s bowling point and coaches Rahul Dravid, Paras Mhambrey and Vikram Rathore monitor the session.
Once the practice was over, he was seen sharing a laugh with Karthik as they walked back.