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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Indian players slog out in Wankhede ahead of clash against Sri Lanka, South Africa

Only three teams — West Indies (1975, 5 matches; 1979, 4 matches), Sri Lanka (1996, 6 matches) and Australia (2003, 11 matches; 2007, 11 matches) — have remained unbeaten on way to winning the World Cup and India have a golden chance to add their name to the coveted list

Indranil Majumdar Mumbai Published 01.11.23, 11:30 AM
Suryakumar Yadav bats at nets at the Wankhede in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Suryakumar Yadav bats at nets at the Wankhede in Mumbai on Tuesday. PTI photo

Six out of six and Team India are already focused on the knockouts. The outcome of their remaining matches against Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Netherlands could only alter their position slightly in the top four.

Under an unrelenting sun at the Wankhede on Tuesday afternoon, a few of the Indian players slogged it out keeping in mind their opponents in the next stage. Up in the stands, workers were busy providing finishing touches to the statue of one Sachin Tendulkar, which will be inaugurated on Wednesday.

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Knowing well that India could run into Australia or South Africa in the semi-finals, the onus was on tackling the short-pitched stuff. Besides the net bowlers, the throw-down specialists made it really count for the Shreyas Iyers and KL Rahuls.

Only three teams — West Indies (1975, 5 matches; 1979, 4 matches), Sri Lanka (1996, 6 matches) and Australia (2003, 11 matches; 2007, 11 matches) — have remained unbeaten on way to winning the World Cup and India have a golden chance to add their name to the coveted list.

Shreyas has been in the eye of a storm because of his inability to get out of the way of back-of-a-length deliveries and was a victim to such circumstances even in their last match against England in Lucknow. The No.4 batter in the team, Shreyas' failure to find his touch has put pressure on the later-order batters.

India play Sri Lanka in Mumbai on Thursday followed by South Africa at Eden Gardens on Sunday. Teams batting first at the Wankhede in both the previous matches have scored in excess of 380, which is a fair indication of the nature of the wicket.

The South Africa test could be of bigger significance and head coach Rahul Dravid seemed determined to iron out the flaws.

Their pace trio of Lungi Ngidi, Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada are capable of making use of the bounce on the Eden turf much to the chagrin of the batters.

The team management has immense faith in Shreyas though there have been calls to replace him with Ishan Kishan or Suryakumar Yadav.

The unavailability of Hardik Pandya has perhaps led to Shreyas keeping his place but things could change once the all-rounder returns.

It is mainly because Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have aggregated 752 runs of the 1430 posted in the six matches that the remaining batters' faulty technique have remained under wraps.

Surya at No.6 could be the solution but whether the think-tank would agree to such a combination remains to be seen. There was a concerted effort to make Shreyas tackle the short deliveries with confidence and clarity at the nets. Dravid too provided some throw-downs while advising on the positioning of his bat and body.

Teams like South Africa and Australia will always try to make use of his act of sheer folly. Shreyas continued to attempt the pull shot though it failed to clear the imaginary field placements at all times.

Rahul, Ishan and Surya too battled the short stuff but they bristled with hits over the infield and scoops behind the wicket.

"We were not great with the bat, losing three wickets in the first Powerplay isn't the ideal situation," Rohit had sounded a warning after the match against England in Lucknow. "You have to then create a long partnership, which we did. But then we just lost wickets."

Will the team management act boldly in the upcoming matches? Shreyas will get his chance in the next two games as was evident during Tuesday's practice but what if he fails?

His technique will be monitored closely but will Dravid and Rohit stand firm on having Shreyas in the playing XI in the knockouts?

Rohit insists the team always shuts out the "outside noise" but can he continue to ignore it even if Shreyas fails?

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