PHOTOS: Ojha, Ashwin shy away from nets at Wankhede
The Indian team began preparations for the second Test against England with a light training session at the Wankhede stadium, in Mumbai, on Wednesday.
The hosts are in a confident frame of mind for the match, starting Friday, following the crushing nine-wicket victory in the first Test in Ahmedabad, and keen to keep the momentum going.
As many as five players were missing from the nets session, which started at 1400 local time and lasted nearly three hours. Spin twins Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandra Ashwin, pacer Umesh Yadav (doubtful), left-handers Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir, were conspicuous by their absence.
Sources close to the team said it was an optional net session and the players decided to rest.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a long bowling session in the nets, where he bowled some medium pacers and also had batting practice.
Virender Sehwag opted for light batting against some throw downs, while Sachin Tendulkar had a brief batting session.
Image: Virender Sehwag bats during a nets session at Wankhede on Wednesday
England had an intense net session earlier in the day
Harbhajan Singh looked every bit serious in the nets as he bowled for a long time before practicing some big hits. Same was the case with Zaheer Khan.
The in-form Cheteshwar Pujara, however, had a long batting session along with Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane.
The visiting England team had a net session earlier in the day, during which things looked quite intense as they tried to get their preparations right for the match.
They are already hit by two key withdrawals. Pacer Steve Finn has still not recovered from his thigh injury, while Ian Bell flew home for the birth of his first child.
The anti-doping officials were also quite busy as few players from both sides had a random test.
Among the Indians to undergo the dope test were Tendulkar, Zaheer and Harbhajan, while Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and a couple of other players from the English team were tested.
Image: England's Kevin Pietersen is surrounded by youngsters during England's net session
The MCA officials do not want dish out a rank turner
The pitch, as usual, was the subject of debate, but Mumbai Cricket Association curator Sudhir Naik refused to make any comment. Many believe that it will not be a rank turner from the first ball as India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni wants it to be.
Dhoni wants to "see the wicket turn right from the start", but it is unlikely that his demand would be acceded to. The MCA officials do not want dish out a rank turner and haven't forgotten the backlash they got for preparing a dust blow in 2004 against Australia when the match finished inside three days.
The pitch is expected to have a bit of extra bounce that will keep the pace bowlers interested for the first couple of days, atleast.
Also, the spinners will relish the extra grip and bounce on offer, while the batsman will be able to freely play strokes, unlike Ahmedabad where the uneven bounce kept them guessing.
Image: Harbhajan Singh inspects the pitch during a nets session on Wednesday
The breeze will help seamers in the post-tea session
What the teams need to be wary about is the sea breeze from the Arabian Sea in the vicinity that will blow right across the ground in the evening. The Wankhede stadium, which was renovated last year, is wide open on either side of the wicket which allows the gust to travel through.
The breeze generally picks up in the post-tea session, helping the seamers move the ball more than expected. The final session always produces some wickets if a fast bowler can get the ball in the right areas.
Virender Sehwag will be cynosure of all eyes when he walks out to bat. The Test will be the dashing opener's 100th appearance. He will become only the ninth player from India to achieve the landmark.This match could also turn out to be a memorable one for Sachin Tendulkar, who, many believe, will be playing his last Test at his home ground. With Mumbai not scheduled to host another Test till 2014, there is a general feeling that this could be the master batsman's last outing at his beloved Wankhede stadium.
Image: India captain MS Dhoni rolls his arm at the nets as Ishant Sharma watches
'The ticket sales have picked up'
Interestingly, when Tendulkar last played against England at the Wankhede stadium in 2006 he was booed by the fans after failing with the bat.
The Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) will felicitate both Tendulkar and Sehwag before the start of play on Day 1.
MCA officials also confirmed that ticket sales got a good response with almost 80 per cent taken up by the local fans."We have made nearly Rs. 30 lakh from ticket sales, both online and through box office. The ticket sales have picked up quite well in the last couple of days and we expect it to be a full house on all the five days of the match," the official said.
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara and Harbhajan bat in the nets as coach Duncan Fletcher looks on