January 29, 2017 5:16:59 am
ON THURSDAY, Tymal Mills and Ben Stokes didn’t seem too keen on letting the Indian batsmen show off their ‘driving’ skills. At least Stokes bowled the odd full delivery as a variation. But Mills was obstinate in his refusal to pitch anything up to the opposition. In fact in both their cases, 18 of the 24 balls they delivered in their spell were either short-of-length or bouncer-length. Basically, 75 per cent of the time, the Indians were left stranded on the back-foot while facing Mills and Stokes.
So it wasn’t surprising to then see the net bowlers, called in to bowl spin for India’s practice session at the VCA Stadium in Nagpur on Saturday, sat twiddling their thumbs. Instead, Virat Kohli & Co seemed intent on focusing solely on preparing for the challenge that lies ahead a day later.
They even decided to get some centre-wicket practice by turning the pitch adjacent to the one that will be used for the second T20 on Sunday into an open net.
Here, Kohli, MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and opener KL Rahul took turns to facing throwdowns from the support-staff, with pretty much all of the deliveries pitched short of length or bouncer-length, or let’s say where Mills and Stokes will come at them again a day later. They even positioned five fielders at vital vantage points to add to the match-feel. Rahul, who fell to a short ball that he tried to hook at Kanpur, was peppered with a number of bouncers here too and he looked keener to late cut the ball rather than play a full-blooded shot like he had in the first game. The other batting mainstays too were put through the same grind.
India isn’t used to losing much at home. Since the ODI series defeat to South Africa a year-and-a-half ago, their home-record has been immaculate. But with England cruising to victory at Green Park, India suddenly find themselves in a must-win scenario for the first time in a while this early in a series—they did after all go into the final ODI against New Zealand in October with the series tied 2-2. And it wasn’t surprising to see them work extra hard on being prepared for the one strategy that worked wonders for the English and caught them slightly off-guard.
It’s not just Mills and Stokes that India have to contend with though. At Kanpur, Chris Jordan played an equally crucial role in pegging the Indians back. Unlike his two pace colleagues, Jordan relies more on variety and mixing up his lengths.
And his unpredictability played a huge role in him being the designated death bowler for every team he plays for in this format. While he too has a mean short-ball, it’s the wide yorker that stands out as his main weapon. While he attributed his success against Rahul to having bowled to him in the RCB nets during the IPL last year, it was Jordan’s trademark weapon that helped him thwart Dhoni’s aggressive intentions in the death overs.
“If you bowl at the stumps a lot that’s in their arc. I find bowling the wide yorker more often than not buys you some dots and helps you pick up a wicket too. When I look at death bowling you have to use different variations and that doesn’t necessarily have to be pace, it can be line or length. So instead of maybe bowling my slower one, I use the wide yorker,” Jordan said here on Saturday.
Pant, Mishra could come in
In Test cricket, Kohli hasn’t gone in with the same playing XI for two consecutive matches since the time he took over officially. On most occasions, injuries have forced his hand there.
But with India trailing here, it’s likely that we’ll see a few changes with a lot of talk surrounding a potential debut for teenager Rishabh Pant. As it turned out, Pant was spotted batting along with the core group, which includes Dhoni and Yuvraj on Saturday.
While Pant’s inclusion would have to come at the expense of Manish Pandey, there’s also talk about India possibly going in with two leg-spinners, with Amit Mishra expected to replace Parvez Rasool, and join Yuzvendra Chahal, a move that could well be dictated by the massive boundaries on offer at the VCA Stadium.
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