KL Rahul goes behind the scenes to explain Team India's net sessions
Before the two teams actually slug it out at the Chinnaswamy for the second Test, the netted facility at the NCA is proving to be a sanctum for either side, helping them sharpen their skills and get the feel of the conditions in Bengaluru. Net sessions form a vital part of Test cricket’s pre-game preparation. It is where the brain games begin, and it is where, according to Indian batsman KL Rahul, “50% of the battle is won”.
In a video posted by the BCCI, Rahul gave fans a glimpse of what transpires during a standard Team India nets session. The team had a long drawn stint in the nets a day after their arrival in Bengaluru.
Batting order pre-decided
The coach first writes down the batting order, designating each player with a net and a batting slot to have a go. On their first net session in the city, one of the assistants was seen jotting down names of the players on a small whiteboard.
After warming up, a drill that usually involves taking short sprints and loosening up the body with light exercises, the Indian players change into their net clothes and follow the schedule written on the whiteboard. The players were also seen using light dumbbells to get their limbs into action.
In their first net session, Kohli was seen first practising on the knocking pitch before moving on to face the fast bowlers.
The Indian captain then moved on to have a specialised fielding regimen with the support staff, where he stood in a virtual leg-slip position and took catches off the bat to mimic real match conditions.
Three separate nets
There are a total of three nets in the NCA practice area: One for the spinners, the fast bowlers and the knocking area, where assistant coach Sanjay Bangar and Raghu were seen testing the batsmen by hurling deliveries at them from close range.
In the first round, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair took to the main nets, while Jayant and Vijay were seen batting in the side nets.
The stick, a contraption that holds the ball at one end of an elongated cane and is used to throw the ball at the batsman at varying speeds to help him brush up certain aspects of his game, is used by Raghu, part of the support staff.
“They try to bowl as close to what we ask as possible, but it is very difficult because the ball is coming off a stick. It gives you a match kind of feel because you don’t know where the ball will come
Even as the video keeps shooting, Kohli is seen giving Rahul a death stare. “Skipper giving me a stare, thinking why I am not doing my fielding sessions”, chuckles Rahul.
“Picturing the opposition”
Ashwin is seen plying from one end of the “spinners” net. Rahul reveals that Ashwin likes to bowl long spells, especially because he is currently trying out a new skill in the nets.
Ashwin, head coach Anil Kumble and Kuldeep Yadav were later seen bowling together in the same enclosure, outwitting the batsmen with their varying specialities.
When Rahul faces Ashwin in the nets, he pictures Nathan Lyon bowling to him in the actual match. “You give each person a picture of an opponent”, he says. He also conceded that “he doesn’t like to think too much, and lets his instincts take over”.
The players take their net sessions very seriously, especially three-four days before the start of the Test, putting in longer stints inside the enclosures as opposed to just 7-8 minute brief sessions just before the game.
The “knocking nets” give the player a chance to sharpen a particular aspect of their batting. “It is entirely up to the individual, what he wants to practice.”
The most dangerous bowler in the world
“Raghu is the most dangerous bowler in the world right now, for any player. He gives us all a hard time. He is somebody who has helped us all against fast bowlers. He is called right arm scary, who really pushes you. You have to focus really hard, or he’ll hit you in the head or chin”.
“Sanjay Bangar is a wily old fox, who seams the ball around, bowling in the right channels like he used to, something like Josh Hazlewood”.