Less training, more focus for India

AUCKLAND (TIP): The buzz around Eden Park is increasing. And it’s not because of Brendon McCullum and New Zealand. With the Men in Blue assuring themselves of the top spot in their group, there’s huge enthusiasm among the big Indian expat population here, who have trained their eyes on Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni.

India won’t be returning to New Zealand anymore, but no one is complaining. The general feeling among fans here is that they would prefer watching India steamroll Zimbabwe in an inconsequential game than bear the tension of a high-voltage semifinal drama against New Zealand that could go either way.

It has a lot to do with India’s poor record here in recent times. The team, too, had it in mind even before they started the tournament, and now that they have ensured that they won’t play the knockouts in New Zealand, it’s all very relaxed.

There’s nothing to play for in the Zimbabwe game and even a defeat won’t affect their spot in the pool.

Hence it was quite natural that India took it easy on Thursday as well, spending time at the team hotel, even as fans gathered at the ground hoping that the superstars would turn up for practice.

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MS Dhoni believes there’s no need to train every day, but the practice, as and when it happens, should be intense. That’s why they rested on the last two days and it will only be on match eve that they will turn up at Eden Park to have a look at the venue.

They have bittersweet memories of this ground, where they managed to tie an ODI last year after being down in the dumps.

The drop-in pitch at Eden Park is a belter, even though both the games here haven’t been run-feasts. But even before the tournament started, everyone was talking about India’s game against Zimbabwe here and the possibility of a run-feast if Kohli & Co get the chance to bat first.

Dav Whatmore, the Zimbabwe coach, knows all about Kohli. He was the coach when the colts under Kohli won the U-19 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur in 2008.

“He is confident. He was the same as an U- 19 captain. But there have been many examples of confident young players who don’t follow up and fall through. Kohli is one player who has fulfilled his potential,” the Zimbabwe coach said ahead of a practice session on Thursday.

That U-19 side also had Ravindra Jadeja and Whatmore spoke highly of the Kohli-Jadeja combine.

“I was there only for a short period of time but the time I spent with them was enjoyable. It wasn’t difficult to see that they had potential to go on. There is still more for them to do though,” Whatmore said.

While Kohli will surely look to maximize his chances of putting up a big score, it will be another test for Jadeja to prove his mettle as the fifth bowler of the team on pitches that aren’t overtly conducive to spin.

Whatmore, though, feels the Indian bowling has already done enough in this tournament.

“India are bowling the opposition out frequently and that has been a big plus. Their batting talent has never really been in question. What was needed was a good, strong bowling performance and they have done that,” the coach added.

Come Saturday and Dhoni will test his troops one final time before heading into the knockouts.

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