India arrived at Old Trafford early in the morning on a sunny Sunday in Manchester, for their first competitive training session two days out from the first of the three Twenty20s against England. Training sessions might never be the perfect lens to zoom in on who might make the XI or what the players and team think tank have in mind, but it offers glimpses all the same. Here are some happenings from India's training session.
Kohli's bat makes a noise
When a batsman is hitting the ball fluently, there are a few things that stand out. His stance is usually upright, he maintains his shape as he strikes the ball, and, then, there is the sound his bat makes when he hits the leather. Virat Kohli might not have made too many runs in the short jaunt to Dublin, but today he struck the ball with intent. The noise resounded in the empty stadium. To the untrained eye, Kohli' stance seems more upright compared to when he played in England last year during the Champions Trophy. There seemed to be just one instance where Kohli possibly moved a bit slowly today: facing a throwdown from India's batting coach Sanjay Bangar, he stayed in his crease, trying to tap a length ball, and it took the bottom edge to hit the base of his stumps. Kohli moaned "aah", disappointed at his mistake.
Dhawan boxed by Bhuvi
"Cannon" thundered Ravi Shastri, India's head coach, as Shikhar Dhawan was beaten by the pace of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the ball hit him where it matters the most. Done with the local net bowlers, Dhawan had requested Bhuvneshwar to have a bowl at him. That ball aside, though, Dhawan remain unruffled and handled both pace and spin with firm hands and good technique - especially against the short ball.
Later, he faced fast volleys, fired at him from a short distance with a tennis racquet by India's fielding coach R Sridhar. An interesting way to practise playing the pull as well as leaving real fast balls that climb to the throat.
Raina fiddles with bats and technique
Suresh Raina has always been a bat lover. He carries several bats in his kit bag. During the second T20 against Ireland, MS Dhoni ran with Raina's bag, loaded with bats, as the left-hander kept replacing one every over. Today Raina walked in with two bats to take throwdowns, and it came in handy. Having dug out a a fuller-length delivery near his toes, Raina let out a sigh as he looked at the bottom of the bat; he seemed to have cracked it.
Reacting to the news, Dhoni, in a matter-of-fact tone, muttered that now Raina could get three or four more new bats. For the moment, though, Raina has a bigger concern: his technique against the ball that comes to his hips. He struggled against the shorter ball in the Ireland T20 series, and even today, against a ball with spongy bounce, he played such deliveries in ungainly fashion. Bangar suggested to Raina that he unlock his back elbow while playing his shot to such balls, which would allow him to play the stroke freely instead of being cramped. Raina might be one of the most experienced players in the India squad, but he still remains a work in progress.
PS: Having watched that nets session, here's our prediction for India's XI two days out from the match - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal