Traffic, living up to a Bengaluru cliche, moved at snail’s pace. Birds returned to the nearby Cubbon Park to roost. And in this urban-pastoral setting, the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium geared up for its last World Cup match this season. As always, the kites glided above.
Sunday’s clash between India and the Netherlands, the final league game of a long-drawn championship, will lure in the crowds. The fans are primed to cheer for the Men in Blue, who have tougher battles ahead in the knock-outs starting with the semifinals next week.
It may have been a hectic Friday night outside, but inside, it was all about the steady rhythm of a ball thudding into a bat as Rohit Sharma’s men practised under lights. Being the lone undefeated squad in the current World Cup, India will step in as the favourites on Sunday. But for the players, constantly repeating their ‘one match at a time’ mantra, it was all about getting back into their groove.
There was a bit of light-hearted banter as R. Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah mimicked the bowling actions of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Ashwin played the mentor, fine-tuning Bumrah’s attempts of replicating the former spinners’ delivery stride. A bunch of fans in the far corner suddenly exulted as their object of affection, Virat Kohli, strode in. With his Royal Challengers Bangalore connect since 2008, Kohli is seen as an honorary citizen of this megapolis.
Slip catches, spot of foot-volley and Mohammed Shami using his long handle against throw downs and spin, with even Bumrah peddling the slow art, were all at play. And closer to the centre-square, skipper Rohit, coach Rahul Dravid and chief selector Ajit Agarkar had a long chat. The skies darkened with a combination of twilight and some clouds as the North-East Monsoon remained a steady atmospheric presence.
The regular batters then got into the act with Rohit despatching the white sphere high into the stadium’s roof. Shubman Gill, meanwhile, essayed his pulls and attempted a reverse ramp shot and the fine sweeps. In another corner, Suryakumar Yadav countered throwdowns. In a while, K.L. Rahul and Kohli too wielded their bats, getting their aerial zones sorted, striking down the ground or dancing down to spinners. And other batters awaited their turn.
Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Prasidh Krishna turned their arm over before Bumrah too reverted to his fast act. Most of the players turned up for the optional nets while Ishan Kishan wasn’t around. The World Cup has entered its business end but prior to that the Netherlands has to be dealt with. The players kept their eye on that target while a weekend night waned.
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