The Indian cricket team on Thursday skipped the optional practice session ahead of the opening Test against South Africa, while skipper Virat Kohli also gave the pre-match press briefing a miss, a noticeable departure from convention for a bilateral engagement. India's assistant coach Sanjay Bangar instead arrived to address the media, that too after a delay of over an hour. Early in the day, the team management declared the pre-Test practice session would be an optional one. However, it was surprising to see none of the players arrive for even a brief session. Even those, who are not expected to play a part in the Cape Town Test, didn't come out for practice.
Only the support staff, including coach Ravi Shastri and chief selector MSK Prasad, showed up to take a final look at the match wicket.
A source in the team management outlined that nothing should be read into it "since it is only an optional practice session" ahead of a hectic series.
The bigger surprise though was the absence of Kohli from the media briefing. It is a general convention for the two skippers to address the press at the start of any series.
His predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni never missed a pre-Test briefing, especially when travelling overseas. Even in the West Indies last year or recently in Sri Lanka, Kohli was present in all pre-Test briefings.
The gathered local media in Cape Town expressed their displeasure with this turn of events.
The reasoning given for Kohli's absence was his media briefing with Shastri on arrival in South Africa last week. Additionally, the Indian media manager confirmed that there was no word from Cricket South Africa either that the captain should be made available for the briefing.
After waiting for just over an hour, in a bid to express their displeasure at this development, two television crews walked off while Bangar's press conference was still going on.