A lot of the chatter on the sidelines of a net session before heading into hotel quarantine consisted of players mocking each other on how they planned to spend the last few hours before bubble life resumed. On Sunday afternoon, new Test vice-captain Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, and Shardul Thakur were hard at work at the Sharad Pawar Academy nets, which are adjacent to the ground where Andhra Pradesh’s KS Bharat was smashing the Himachal Pradesh bowlers all over the park in a Vijay Hazare Trophy tie.

In the evening, the Virat Kohli-led Indian team joined the team bubble for the South Africa tour. On December 16, they will go to Johannesburg on a chartered airplane for the six-match tour (3 Tests, 3 ODIs). The athletes know that another tour under a rigid bubble life awaits them as the Covid variation Omicron severely spreads across the African continent.

Rahane, who is short on runs and fighting for a spot in the team, hasn’t missed a single practice session since missing the Mumbai Test against New Zealand due to a hamstring injury. As bowling coach Paras Mhambrey looked on, he had another extended batting net, his third of the week, against the team’s three throw-down experts. He’d focus on getting his footwork right against excellent length deliveries, peeling off and re-tying the strap of his gloves, a batting trigger synonymous with Rahane.

Sharma arrived 45 minutes into Rahane’s batting net. With no net bowlers available and a soft quarantine in effect, both batsmen took turns facing an over each against the three throwdown pros. Raghavendra, also known as ‘Raghu,’ is the team’s senior member and one of the top throwdown competitors on the circuit. With a rising delivery that seemed to smash the batter hard on the gloves, he sliced Sharma’s net short. Sharma was in high spirits after a few apprehensive moments when he winced in discomfort. With socially detached selfies, he obliged a sparse audience that had gathered over the iron railings of the stadium.