India’s bench test — the second round begins

All eyes will be on batsmen Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw as India A takes on South Africa A in the second four-day game starting here on Friday.

Mayank Agarwal smashed a brilliant double hundred against the visiting South Africa A side in the first Test.   -  G.P. Sampath Kumar

The Tumkur highway here is a vast stretch. There are marshy lands, tiny shops and rickety lodges. It is an hour away from the metropolis but it’s all worth when — after a right-turn and a few yards into the wild — Rahul Dravid and his boys are literally on your face.

There is hardly any distance between the pitch and the main road. Platinum Oval, as the ground is called, is also breezy and lush green.

As India A prepares for the second four-day game against South Africa A starting on Friday, the spotlight will be on openers Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw and pace spearhead Mohammad Siraj, who took a double fifer in the last outing.

Mayank is known for his work ethics, and the right-handed batsman — who smashed 220 in the first Test — ensured he didn’t skip the optional practice on Thursday. Batting diligently to Ankit Rajpoot and the net bowlers, he completed his regular quota under Dravid’s supervision.

Pacer Rajneesh Gurbani took advantage of the breeze and generated a bit of swing at the training session.

 

Prithvi — who scored a hundred (136) in the first rubber — and Siraj — the 10-wicket man — took a day off. The middle-order, comprising skipper Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari, is quite steady as well.

Though Iyer needs to tighten his screws, Vihari — the Andhra run-machine — has been in a dream form. Even in a run-heavy first game, he had sneaked in with a fifty.

Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel will bring their senior team experience into play in the spin department, which has been South Africa’s weak link for quite some time.

Beaten black and blue in the first Test, the South African side will be keen to turn the tide. As soon as they arrived, there was a team meeting in the change room for close to half-an-hour. The training started with football.

Unlike the Indian players, this ground is fully new for the visitor.

The Proteas will expect the in-form Rudi Second to fire. The wicketkeeper-batsman is a veteran of 97 First-Class games. His judgement will come handy.

Skipper Khaya Zondo looked in good touch in the warm-up game but has lost the plot since; he will be desperate for a big one.

The left-right fast-bowling combination of Beuran Hendricks and Duanne Oliver remains one of their strengths. Hendricks has turned out in seven Twenty20 games for the senior’s team, while Oliver is five Tests old.

With a fair amount of county experience for Derbyshire, Oliver is capable of exposing the star-studded Indian batting line-up in windy conditions.

Chief selector in the house

The good news for the rookies is that M.S.K Prasad — the chief national selector — was spotted at the players’ pavilion. Once India A finished its session, he walked into Dravid’s car and the duo flew off.