MOHALI: A positive point from India’s forgettable Asia Cup campaign was the century scored by Virat Kohlic after a hiatus of three long years. Kohli played after a six-week break and scored a fiery 71st international century, albeit in a minor affair against Afghanistan.
That Kohli special (122 not from 61 balls) was made possible, according to the batsman himself, by sticking to a “tried and tested” template in which six-hitting was not a priority. Kohli said so in a conversation with skipper Rohit Sharma.
Now that the burden of reaching that elusive barrel is over, all eyes will be on Kohli’s approach as he takes to the field in the first of three T20Is against Australia here on Tuesday. Following this series, India is scheduled to play three more T20Is against South Africa from September 26, ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia in October.
As well as keeping an eye on Kohli’s form, India will also be keen to capture their best combination in these home matches, with skipper Rohit Sharma giving his boys the license to push their “limits”.
Eye on Rahul
One eye will also be on how Rohit’s primary opening pick, KL Rahulapproaches his innings against a high-quality bowling formation led by Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. “KL Rahul will open for us at the T20 World Cup. We are not going to experiment much with that position. His performance often stands out. He is a very important player for India,” Rohit had said.
For his part, Rahul said on Monday: “The roles that have been defined for each player in the last 10-12 months have been very clear and a player understands what is expected of him and everyone is working towards it. I am looking forward to taking on the challenge to go up against the Australian team, and work on how I can improve as a lead-off hitter and see how I can make the most impact for the team when I walk out to bat.”
Pants or Karthik or both?
Suryakumar Yadav and Deepak Hooda will be tasked with manning the middle order, while the wicketkeeper’s slot will again attract suggestions from different sides, with left-handers Rishabh Pantdespite his repeated failures in the shortest format, with a slight lead over the timeless Dinesh Karthik, also the designated finisher.
“Both (Pant and Karthik) are high quality players, these decisions are not easy. But it all depends on what kind of combination we want to go in seeing the conditions and secondly against the teams we are playing against. As a team , the coach, captain and the leadership group, we look for who fits the role on that particular day, he gets to play,” Rahul said.
In the absence of all-around star Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma could be tempted to test the like-for-like replacement in Axar Patel for the sixth bowling option, although skipper Rohit thinks off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s hitting skills also come from can come in handy. The return of Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel clearly adds impetus to the pace department with in-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar leading the pack.
Exhausted Aussie tempo lineup?
Reigning world champions Australia are unbeaten in the last two visits and will try to continue in the same vein. The Kangaroos have reassured their key players, including David Warner, for the short tour. Despite this, the team has no shortage of resources, with the likes of Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell and skipper Aaron Finch boasting of ample IPL experience. The new signing, Tim David, is no stranger to Indian wickets either, given his association with IPL franchises.
While the selectors decided not to risk the trio of Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis and Mitchell Marsh, who all suffered minor injuries ahead of the World Cup, substitutes Daniel Sams, Sean Abbott and Nathan Ellis will be eager to prove a point against a strong home game .
From an Indian perspective, the series opener at the PCA Stadium would be Rohit & Co. a great opportunity to close the gaps after a bleak Asian Cup.
india: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandaran Ashwin, Yuzvendra ChahalAxar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav
Australia: Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Aaron Finch (c), Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa