Manchester: The Indian cricket team was back to business two days ahead of their match against West Indies at the Old Trafford. Originally, they were supposed to undergo a usual practice session, but due to overnight rain which left the field wet, the players were moved to the indoor training facility, at the Old Trafford Centre of Cricket. Reduced to an optional training, just four players showed up – allrounders Vijay Shankar and Ravindra Jadeja, fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar, along with captain Virat Kohli. Not much are read into optional sessions but here’s what all transpired during the 90-minute training drill.
Kohli tested by left-arm pace
India’s next opponents are the West Indies, for whom Sheldon Cottrell has provided early breakthroughs in almost every game. Against Pakistan, he took out Imam Ul Haq cheaply and reduced South Africa to 29 for 2 before the game was washed out, Against Australia, he dismissed David Warner for three and Glenn Maxwell for a duck. His best performance came against New Zealand, where Cottrell sent back openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro for golden ducks. In a disappointing West Indies campaign, Cottrell has been one of the few positives.
Perhaps aware of the Cottrell threat, Kohli, for almost faced left-arm throwdowns. While the Indian captain mostly looked untroubled, he was beaten outside off on a few occasions. But every time he missed connecting the ball, the next one was dealt brutally, a fierce drive down the ground which almost took out coach Ravi Shastri and batting coach Sanjay Bangar, monitoring the proceedings. The Indian captain has occasionally, shown a tendency to poke at the away going deliveries, and factoring in Cottrell’s ability to get the ball to swing early, it could have well been a ploy to counter the Cottrell threat.
Bhuvneshwar returns but unlikely for Windies clash
Out of the previous game due a hamstring injury, Bhuvneshwar Kumar looked in good shape and bowled in the nets for almost half an hour, while being carefully monitored by chief selector MSK Prasad and team physio Farhart Patrick. But as per intel gained, Bhuvneshwar may have to wait a little longer to return to the Playing XI. “With Mohammed Shami picking up a hat-trick in the previous game the management is considering offering Bhuvneshwar some more rest to completely heal,” a BCCI source said.
Will Jadeja get a game?
Ravindra Jadeja is yet to get a game this World Cup, but judging by his intensity, the allrounder is raring to go. Jadeja was the first to enter the nets on Tuesday and kept going till the very end. Jadeja went through all three nets – for the left-arm throwdowns, the fast bowling machine and the one used to play spin, and looked in fine batting form. He kept charging down against spin and whacked a few onto the nets, separating the media and the players. Again, optional sessions aren’t the best indicators, but judging by how Jadeja knocked the balls around, the possibility of him playing against West Indies is high.
India’s middle order was tested against Afghanistan, especially against the spinners, and while West Indies, barring Ashley Nurse, don’t have a specialist spinner in their ranks, have the pace to trouble Indian batsmen. Before India face England, it might not be a bad idea to give Jadeja a go, just to see how he fares batting in the lower order. Furthermore, the left-arm spin of Mitchell Santner seemed to have put West Indies in a fix. He had Chris Gayle dropped twice and Shimron Hetmyer once, but ended up wicketless. On a dry Old Trafford surface, weather permitting, Jadeja’s left-arm spin might be a bit of a worry for the West Indies. In case he does get a game, Kuldeep Yadav might have to make way.
No Rishabh Pant
The decision to leave out Rishabh Pant from India’s initial 15-member squad was received with mixed reactions. While some found the decision wise considering Pant’s inexperience at the ODI level, former stalwarts Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting and Michael Vaughan felt the selection committee has made a mistake. Well, Pant is finally part of the team in place of Shikhar Dhawan, but now that he is, it leaves India in another fix? Do they play him? And if yes, where?
If Pant is in the Playing XI, he has to be anywhere between No 4 and 6. With MS Dhoni a certainty behind the stumps, he either replaces Kedar Jadhav or Shankar. Jadhav scored an invaluable half-century against Afghanistan so leaving him out might be a bit harsh. And Shankar sweated it out in the nets, against spin, pace and the net bowlers. That itself is a clear indication that Pant may still have to wait. Of course, there is the option of a proper outing in the nets on the eve of the match. But if Pant had a chance, he should have appeared for the optional drill. Hence, in all likelihood, there will be not Pant for India on Thursday.
Aryan Bangar bowls under supervision of Bharat Arun
This may have no bearing on Thursday’s match but the son of India’s batting coach Sanjay Bangar, Aryan, was seen rolling his arm around with some traditional left-arm spin. Once the players left, Aryan sent down a few drifters and turners as Arun watched on. Arun was spotted giving tips to Aryan, who is in Leicester playing junior County championship and picked up a five-wicket haul in the previous match. As per BCCI sources, Aryan, 16, has been brought to play in England in order so he could get out of his comfort zone. Earlier this year, Aryan switched from Mumbai to Puducherry’s Under-19 side, which created a flutter in India’s domestic cricket circle