India takes on Pakistan in its Asia Cup 2022 campaign opener at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday. Ahead of the big-ticket clash, India had two high-intensity training sessions on Thursday and Friday, followed by optional nets on Saturday.
Here are the main takeaways:
Hardik Pandya, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli dig in
All three had extended runs. Pandya rolled his arm in the Dubai heat. These were not half-hearted throwdowns with short runups. These came at full pace, from across the whole 22 yards. He adjusted according to batter's weaknesses and the conditions. Facing him were Rohit and Kohli, who batted together in the nets for close to half an hour. During Saturday's pre-match press conference, Rohit dispelled the idea that the two batting together indicated they were going to open. "Our batting coach decides who bats in which nets," he said.
Both batters did not mind the short balls served by Pandya, quickly moving outside the line of the ball to pull it for boundaries.
Kohli and Rohit's contrasting methods
Kohli shed his risk-averse nature to take on the spinners from the get-go. He struck multiple big hits in the V. Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal weren't spared. Kohli used his feet more often, and even attempted a reverse paddle off Chahal, a shot he doesn't play much. The sweep in front of square also made a fleeting appearance.
Rohit, at the other end, took his time before tearing into anything that was pitched short. He kept depositing the bouncers out of the ground, often leading to animated shouts of "watch, watch" as a couple of balls landed perilously close to the press corps following the training. He also faced Delhi's left-arm pacer Siddhant Sharma briefly, possibly to work on his weakness against left arm pace — he has been out 19 times to that variety of bowling. Pant, KL Rahul, Dinesh Karthik, and Pandya took their turns with the bat as well.
Then there were the usual catching and fielding drills too, with emphasis on the former. The Dubai International Stadium has a ring of lights mounted along the rim of the roof, which creates blind spots for fielders looking to take high catches. Some fielders feel that that makes catching in Dubai seem a tad harder than the other grounds. Perhaps why Pandya asked for two long catches to his right, two to his left and two straight to him against the backdrop of the low floodlights at the ICC Academy.
Under the supervision of stand-in coach VVS Laxman, national selector Sunil Joshi and batting coach Vikram Rathour, Rishabh Pant and Deepak Hooda practised attacking from the first ball on Saturday. The squad was assisted by net bowlers - Punjab's left-arm spinner Harpreet Brar , Sharma, and Rajasthan quick Kuldeep Sen. While Pant employed the helicopter shot to clear the boundaries with ease, Hooda focused on playing ground shots for the large part before going aerial. Ravichandran Ashwin played an array of lofted drives down the ground and was severe on Brar who was smacked for more than a couple of maximums.