MUMBAI: Almost a couple of months after he was left cooling heels due to a national lockdown, India pacer Shardul Thakur trained at the nets on Saturday, becoming amongst the first in India cricketer to do so.

Last Sunday, the government had permitted the opening of sports complexes and stadiums without the entry of spectators as part of its new guidelines for the fourth phase of lockdown period till May 31. The permission paves the way of resuming training as sports events continue to fall under the list of prohibited activities.

The Mumbaikar bowled five overs to Mumbai’s under-23 batsman Sairaj Patil and Mumbai Ranji opener and U-23 skipper Hardik Tamore (who was along with his coach Bharat Chamre) at a practice session at the Palghar Dahanu Taluka Sports Association in Boisar here. There were a few other youngsters too who trained at five different nets (keeping in mid social distancing rules) put up on the ground. By the looks of a couple of videos of the practice that this paper had access to, Thakur looked fairly sharp despite this being his first chance to practice after more than 60 days.

“Since it was the first day of my training after a long time, I bowled only five overs. I enjoyed the delightful feeling of returning to wear my bowling spikes and return to the ground after such a long time. It was like starting afresh. At home, I was following the fitness routine given my our (Team India) trainer, so I’ve managed to maintain my fitness levels. However, it takes time to settle into your bowling rhythm, as the muscles have to open up. Though I’ve to work on finding my line and length, I’m happy with my session today. It will take time, but I should be getting better in the next few days,” Thakur told TOI on Saturday.

The 28-year-old ensured that he stuck to the new protocols in place to play cricket in the times of Covid-19. “I ensured social distancing was in place as we all maintained a few metres distance from each other. I got my own ball for practice, and so did the other net bowlers. Of course, now you can’t spit on the ground or put saliva on the ball,” he said. “Thankfully, cricket is not a contact sport. I can just bowl my deliveries and go back to my run-up, instead of going near the batsman,” he added.

In normal times, Thakur would’ve been playing for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. “Tomorrow, (Sunday) would’ve been the final,” he rued.

“Shardul seemed to be in decent rhythm, and was bowling quick too,” said Tamore, who faced the quick in the nets. The youngster himself relished the idea of training again. “After 60 days I went to the ground, so I was excited to play. I trained for a hour-and-a-half at the nets,” he said.

“Once the guidelines from the Palghar District collector (state government) were issued concerning sports, it was always our aim to begin the training process for sportspersons. Due to our fantastic facility in Palghar district, we were able to facilitate a much-needed training programme for our esteemed players, while adhering to social distancing norms and hygiene,” said Ajinkya Naik, Apex Council member of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).