Rohit, who was one of the few cricketers to opt for the optional nets here, was hit after a ball from one of the team’s throw-in specialists was pinched back and gave the batter a good grip. Rohit looked in great pain, gave up beating, used the magic spray and was immediately taken care of by the support staff. He also attempted a hasty return to the nets and picked up his bat, but gave up after just one ball. It was time to spend some time with an ice pack again, with mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton in tow.
After just over half an hour, Rohit tried a return. He started cautiously against a few easy throws before finishing his session in what should come as welcome news to the team. At the end of it all, Rohit went to chat with the throwdown specialist, D Raghavendra, who would have been a relieved man that the injury didn’t seem too serious right away.
Rohit is also looking for a bit of form as he has failed to replicate his usually fluid, languid style of stroke play under these conditions, with the result that India often started nervous and calm in the Powerplays. India will hope Rohit saved his best for last in this World Cup.
Karthik does the hard yards
Rohit was one of only three main team players who chose to train for the big game, the others being Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya along with reserve bowlers Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj.
All eyes were on Karthik, of course, given the constant musical chairs between him and Rishabh Pantwho played in India’s previous match against Zimbabwe, ostensibly because the team wanted to give the southpaw some playing time before the knockouts.
Australian legend Ian Chappell recently wrote in his column that Pant’s exclusion was “unforgivable”. “If you ask opponents about dangerous players, his name will always be high on the list,” Chappell had written. “Another factor in Pant’s favor is his ability to take out an attack at any point during an inning, not just death. If there is any doubt about his roster, Pant’s retention is easily the best in the Indian squad. .”
Be that as it may, two days before the semi-final it was Dinesh Karthik who spent a significant amount of time in the nets, no doubt adding to the speculation as to who will actually face England.
Kohlic vs leg spin and other head turners
Coach Rahul Dravid said after the Zimbabwe game that Pant’s main job was to take on the currently working left arm spinner. Some of the leading opposition spinners who remain in the knockouts take the ball away from the right-handers such as Adil Rashid, Ish Sodhi, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan and Mitchell Santner. When India hasn’t played panting, they toyed with the idea of sending the left-handed Axar Patel up as a float to counteract this threat. Does playing Pant also mean pushing Pandya lower in order to play more of a finisher role?
Also watch out for the Adil Rashid-Virat Kohli battle in the semi-finals. Of the five bowlers who have fired Kohli the most across all formats, three will be available in the semi-finals: Leggie Rashid (sacked 9 times across all formats), Seamer Ben Stokes (9) and off-spinner Moeen Ali (10) .
Rashid can also boast of having rejected Kohli 4 times in 10 Tests, three times in 8 ODIs and twice in 11 T20Is. Will Kohli be wary of this format in a crunch game?
Kohli, incidentally, posted an Instagram post of the beating in the MCG nets, captioned “Enjoy the trial”, to which former England player Kevin Pietersen replied: “Please have a day off on Thursday, mate!”
India undoubtedly still has a way to go before they put their plans into effect, but in a semi-final they want to negate all surprises beforehand. For now, they keep their fingers crossed that their captain is fit and available.