Gurkeerat: Looking forward to the challenge

Asked whether a one-off tie like this would present challenges in terms of gelling as an unit, Gurkeerat said, "I think everyone's a professional cricketer here and you need to be ready all the time."

"All of us have been practising, so I don't think getting together one day before the game is an issue. We're raring to go," says the Board President's XI skipper Gurkeerat Singh.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

Ahead of Tuesday's warm-up match between Australia and Board President's XI in Chennai's M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, captain Gurkeerat Singh said he's "really excited" and eagerly looking forward to the challenge. "I made my debut against Australia and now I've got another opportunity to play against them; it feels great," he said.

Asked whether a one-off tie like this would present challenges in terms of gelling as an unit, Gurkeerat said, "I think everyone's a professional cricketer here and you need to be ready all the time.

"All of us have been practising, so I don't think getting together one day before the game is an issue. We're raring to go."

Coach Hemang Badani echoed his sentiments. "These guys are professional players and have been playing for a very long time. In this case they're all up for it for the simple reason that it's an opportunity for them to do well, a chance to get runs and wickets on the board and get into the national side.

"Even the younger members of the team will be vying for that; try and have a good hit. I do believe these guys are tough enough and are ready for it."

The warm-up match assumes importance for the cricketers since the selectors have announced the squad only for the first three one-day internationals, meaning a good knock with the bat or a telling performance with the ball could open the doors for a national call-up.

Badani, a fluent left-hand batsman, who played four Tests and 40 ODIs for India, concurs.

"Oh absolutely. I'll go back to my own personal experience. I was out of the national side for a couple of years and when New Zealand toured India in 2003, I got a hundred against them in the side game, paving my way back into the ODI outfit.

"So, these guys do realise that come these big matches, one big innings or a five-for gets them back into the reckoning. They have been working hard throughout the year, so it's up to every individual now to grab this opportunity and take it forward."

With the domestic season around the corner, one-off matches like these, especially in the limited-overs format, could impede preparations. But Gurkeerat begs to differ. "I think every game helps you regardless of the format, especially the ODIs. We're going to play day matches in the Ranji Trophy, so it's a very good preparation.

"When you play against such competitive teams, it is an added advantage before the season. If we do well here, we can carry forward the momentum into the domestic season," he said, adding, "I don't think it will affect preparations ahead of the domestic season. For me, personally, I've been playing inter-district tournaments to get ready and now I've a match to play here and, after that, a few more games in Punjab."

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Badani, who was the head-coach of Chepauk Super Gillies which won the recently-concluded Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), was rewarded for a fine season and given the reins of the Board President's XI for this lone match. However, he doesn't "see himself as a coach when it's just for a day."

"All of them are very professional and know what they have to do, and I don't have enough time to spend with them, understand the players, their needs, requirements and state of mind at this point in time.

"All I try and do is be a facilitator for this one session and try to keep them in a good mental space while also giving them some feedback about the weather and the conditions here," he reasoned.

Asked whether he will target Australia's Achilles Heel by playing a spin laden attack, Badani said, "We'll look to play our best side. We're not looking at giving them practice because as far as we're concerned, the team wants to play to the best of its potential.

"And when it comes to these boys, the idea will be to score runs and get wickets, because at the end of the day, if some of them do well, they're back in the reckoning. Our concern is our cricket and the way we play."

Gurkeerat, who has played against some of the Australians in the Indian Premier League and in the ODI tri-series in Chennai two years back, while representing India A, said growing familiarity with the opposition will be a factor while deciding on the strategies.

He added: "Whenever you get picked, you've to give your best. All of us are focusing on this one game. As far as selection (India) goes, it's not in our hands, really. There has been no message from the selectors, nothing as of now."

As for tomorrow's match, has a plan of action been communicated to the team? Badani chose to shoulder arms. "I've had a chat with the chairman of selectors (M. S. K. Prasad) but I'll not be able to discuss that with you to be honest.

"You'll find out tomorrow!"