VISAKHAPATNAM: The spotlight was firmly trained on fit-again opener K L Rahul as senior pro Gautam Gambhir on Wednesday cut a lonely figure during the Indian cricket team’s practice session on the eve of the second Test against England.
Captain Virat Kohli’s assertion later that the Karnataka player is their “number one choice” for opening slot suggested that the 35-year-old southpaw’s time may be as good as over.
Kohli’s word seemed to have spread as Gambhir had a quiet net session and was seen in the company of Hardik Pandya, while Kohli had a prolonged chat with North Zone selector Sarandeep Singh.
At the other end of the practice area of the Dr YSR ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium was a padded-up Rahul paying attention to coach Anil Kumble’s instructions.
Having made a comeback after two years, Gambhir featured in a Test against New Zealand, scoring a fighting half-century in the second innings.
His open-chested stance looked promising but he failed to address the problems with incoming deliveries and was trapped LBW by Stuart Broad in the opening Test against England.
His outing in the second essay lasted six deliveries as he edged Chris Woakes to Joe Root at the third slip.
The manner of the dismissals prompted the think-tank to get on board Rahul, who was playing a Ranji match against Rajasthan in Vizianagaram.
Kumble had, in fact, made it clear that he wants Rahul to open the batting with Murali Vijay.
“Rahul is available for selection and you would want Rahul to be in the starting line-up, that’s the reason he has been included,” Kumble has said on Tuesday.
It remains to be seen whether it’s all over for the veteran of 58 Tests after just two matches on comeback.
The day’s practice session also focussed on low catching practice, including by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, who was seen with Mohammad Shami at the ground.Meanwhile, a ‘pitch puja’ was performed by a priest on the edge of the 22-yard strip ahead of Team India’s practice. The ritual lasted about 30 minutes and later head coach Anil Kumble was smeared with vermilion.
Asked about the ritual, Kohli said: “Puja is a good thing. I don’t know why you asking…”Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad, a former director of Andhra Cricket Association, said it’s normal routine here before the start of any match.