Hitting the ground on tip-toes: Duncan Fletcher keeps a close eye as cautious Indians find their feet on alien soil

MS DhoniThe Indians, led by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, have wasted little time in trying to adapt to South African conditions by conducting two long practice sessions in the two days that they have been here

On Tuesday, you could almost have imagined Duncan Fletcher as a Roman emperor at a Colosseum, giving his verdict on the fate of wounded victims in the middle. He definitely stood like one, sporting his characteristic deadpan expression.

For close to an hour, the Indian coach remained stoic behind the nets where the fast bowlers operated, nodding his head in acknowledgement or in disagreement after each delivery, as his top-order negotiated the pace and the bounce of the practice wickets at the Wanderers. On occasion, he offered a word of advice. But that was it.

He was there when Rohit Sharma took guard, but it was Virat Kohli who received the most stringent surveillance. India's prolific No.3 was lauded mainly for how he handled deliveries that rose from a length, especially those from the pacier Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, and also for how he left deliveries based on the bounce.

"Try not opening the bat face too much," Fletcher could be heard saying as Kohli looked to ride the bounce and punch Yadav through the off-side. Fletcher was seen furiously shaking his head from side to side when the right-hander attempted a similar shot off Shami soon after, only for a ghastly cracking sound to emanate from the edge of his bat.

As Kohli's net session came to an end, Fletcher was in his ear again, giving him a demonstration on how not to be rushed into playing the ball too early. The coach then returned to his vantage point as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh came under his lens. Back to the nodding.

FORM OF THEIR LIVES

WHILE India have landed in South Africa with some of their top-order batsmen in the form of their lives, the only real challenge, at least as far as the ODIs are concerned, will be how quickly they get used to the bounce here in South Africa. Not so much in terms of defending against it as much as making slight alterations in terms of turning the carry of the ball into an advantage.

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