Meanwhile, stand-in skipper AB de Villiers knocked the stuffing out of England attack with a blistering 28-ball 69 before the bowlers chipped in with useful contributions to propel South Africa to a three-run win and a semifinal berth at the ICC World T20 on Saturday. (JPN/Agencies)
Indian cricketers play soccer barefoot
Football remained pretty much a part of Indian cricketers' training stints but what was unusual on Tuesday was that they played barefoot, the hour-long leisurely session reflecting the team's new-found confidence following its qualification to the World Twenty20 semifinals.
They trained at the BCB Cricket Academy ground here, three days ahead of their last-four clash against South Africa. It was the first time that an Indian cricket team was having a full training session without wearing their sports shoes.
After the end of the session, senior cricketer and hero of last match, Yuvraj Singh, was seen limping but the seriousness or extent of pain was not known.
Yuvraj normally wears knee braces during training but his left ankle was protected by a crepe bandage as he walked towards the team bus.
Asked about Yuvraj's condition, Indian team's trainer Nitin Patel said, "Why are you asking me? You know I am not supposed to answer any questions."
From a viewer's point, the training was something different. If you hail from West Bengal or Bangladesh, watching some of the megastars playing barefoot would certainly add a local flavour and force one to take a trip down memory lane.
No wonder, the best footballer on the park was skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, someone who could effortlessly use the inside and outside dodge, chip the ball while taking a free kick. Dhoni's childhood has been spent in MECON quarters in Ranchi and he has played football for DAV Shyamali. His game-sense is certainly a cut above his teammates.
When someone asked the reason for playing barefoot, Dhoni said with a straight face, "Paise khatam ho gaye (We don't have any money left)".
It's learnt from team sources that trainer Sudarshan had suggested the idea so that the players break the monotony.
‘South Africa devising plans to counter Indian spinners’
Wary of India's "exceptional" spinners, South Africa are paying a lot of attention in devising a good gameplan against the spin duo of Amit Mishra and R Ashwin ahead of the semifinal clash.
South African batsman JP Duminy said performing well against the Indian spinners will be a "big challenge".
"Their spinners have bowled exceptionally well. We wantto put up a big performance against their spinners. It is a big game. It’s the semi-final of a World Cup and it doesn’t get bigger than this," Duminy said after a team net session at the BCB Academy nets.
Duminy, who scored 39 against Sri Lanka and 86 against New Zealand, has the experience of playing alongside Mishra in the IPL side Sunrisers Hyderabad. The left-hander said having faced Mishra will certainly help but the job at hand remains tough.
"It's not only me who has played against him (Mishra) but some of the other guys have also played against him. You kind of know what to expect from Mishra. He has been on top form for India in this tournament and definitely, we are not going to take him lightly. We will certainly do our homework and see to it that our gameplan is in order," he said.
Apart from Duminy, stand-in captain AB de Villiers has also been in good nick but Duminy feels that semi-final will be a new day.
"We have been successful in the last few games but that does not necessarily mean that we will be successful again. We know that their spinners will be key components to their team,"he said.
While conceding that India’s familiarity with Mirpur will be an advantage of sorts for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and co., the soon to-be 30 Duminy does not think it will have a lot of bearing in the end result.
"I guess it will (familiarity with Mirpur). But it is a new game. No matter what sort of things you have gone through in this tournament, counts for nothing now. Certainly you take a lot of confidence from your wins. But the team that plays better will win," he said.
Warne drops in at South Africa nets to help spinners
As the South African spinners geared up to counter a formidable Indian line-up, they had a pleasant surprise awaiting them at the net session when legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne came over to hand them tips ahead of the second semi-final of the ICC World T20 on Friday.
"We were all surprised to find him at the nets. May be he was getting bored at the hotel and came over to have a bowl," team's senior batsman Hashim Amla would give nothing away.
Warne spent more than an hour at the Proteas nets offering his expertise to help the likes of Imran Tahir get their act right against the in-form Indian top-order comprising Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh.
The team's media manager Lerato Malekutu said Warne's visit was a surprise for the team.
"We were all surprised to see him out here. He bowled six, seven balls. May be he was getting bored in his hotel room," she said.
It was around quarter to 11 in the morning when Warne dropped in at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium and his first question was, "Mate, are the South Africans done with their batting and bowling?"
After being told that they were still doing their fielding drills, Warne retired to the VIP lounge of the stadium.
Once the net started, he stood behind the stumps watching the spinners with minute attention. He was seen speaking to Tahir especially but he also watched JP Duminy bowl his off-breaks and left-arm slow bowler Aaron Phangiso roll his arm over.
He had a long chat with his old mate and rival Allan Donald, who is the South African bowling coach.
There are rumours that Warne might have dropped in to guide Tahir on Donald's insistence.
Later, Warne bowled a few deliveries to Quinton de Kock at the far nets. He flighted them and although De Kock was not troubled, he could not also get them away for big hits.
Twice he gave Warne the charge but checked his shot at the last moment to play copybook forward defensive strokes.
By the time, he finished, the local media had arrived and Warne evaded any queries as to what he was doing and had to use his body feint to dodge one of the cameraman, who was taking his shots from the front.
Meanwhile, stand-in skipper AB de Villiers knocked the stuffing out of England attack with a blistering 28-ball 69 before the bowlers chipped in with useful contributions to propel South Africa to a three-run win and a semifinal berth at the ICC World T20 on Saturday.