Spotlight shifts to Pujara
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Remember Suresh Raina's slip catch that got him out in the first innings of the Centurion Test? If Raina had chosen to forget the audaciousness of his dismissal, then coach Gary Kirsten refreshed his memory, and the anguish it had caused to the team even if by mistake at practice on Friday.
Opening the face of his blade, Kirsten spliced cricket balls in a hurry towards the harrowed slip fielders. Squatting on his haunches, the coach rained leather towards the cordon for a while, nipping and stinging the sore morning palms. And with a willow position that seemed uncannily similar to Raina's second-innings dismissal against Jacques Kallis at the Supersport Park a ball clipped the outside edge of the bat and smacked Raina on the shin bone, forcing the left-hander to limp off to the safety of an ice-pack.
The practice-like catch had stung India in the opening Test, and the cosmos had slyly extracted its revenge. Clutching onto his leg from a distance, Raina watched Cheteshwar Pujara replace him in the cordon, as the agile lad latched onto and dived towards everything that Kirsten threw at him. And by the way the rest of the session unfolded, Pujara might do the same on Sunday this time in Raina's place in the batting-order for the Kingsmead encounter.
Clear signs at both the practice session and during the customary knock in the nets that followed, gave a clear indication of the thought process in the Indian team-management. With only two double-digit scores in his last eight innings 0, 32, 3, 0, 20, 3, 1, 5 the slack from Raina's extended rope was given a further hack when Pujara padded-up first for the batting session, alongside the revered middle-order.
Flanked by Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman on the left and Sachin Tendulkar on the right, Pujara batted with the Indian spinal chord in the nets, while Raina watched from the periphery. Following an extended session against the net bowlers, Pujara's gifted technique was on display again this time against Zaheer Khan, Jaydev Unadkat, Umesh Yadav and Sreesanth. He rocked onto the backfoot with ease to play the short stuff, while finding the perfect strokes for the length deliveries.
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