DUBAI: As the Indian players deboarded the team bus for an optional practice session here at the ICC Academy on Tuesday evening, the photographers trained their lenses on Virat Kohli. As it turned out, this is the second practice session Kohli had decided to skip on either side of the Pakistan match last Sunday.
As everyone looked around for Kohli, it turned out regular captain Rohit Sharma too was missing. So was head coach Rahul Dravid. India’s top-three – Rohit, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli – have looked rusty and nowhere close to being at their fluent best, so Wednesday’s match against minnows Hong Kong here at the Dubai International stadium could be just the right opportunity for them to get going.
When Dravid and Rohit assumed charge last November, they indicated that India would henceforth adopt a more aggressive batting approach in T20s. Ten months on, the top order looks the same and they are still struggling to play their carefree brand of cricket against top-quality attacks.
Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant and Deepak Hooda hit the nets on Tuesday. Jadeja, in particular, started hitting the ball right from the word go once he was done bowling casually for a few minutes.
It’s apparent that Jadeja the batter has grown in significance in white-ball cricket, more so in T20Is, while Jadeja the bowler has taken a backseat. Jadeja has always fancied himself as an impact batter but the team management’s trust in him to bat in the top order, like he did against Pakistan, has come at a time when the top three are in the middle of a rut.
“I don’t really plan. In T20s, sometimes you don’t need to think too much. You just go in and just play in any situation. I don’t really think that I am primarily a bowler in Tests and bat late or vice versa in white-ball cricket. I only know that I need to score runs and provide breakthroughs with the ball,” Jadeja said.
“Pressure is always there as long as you play for India. But you need to take responsibility while batting. Sometimes you come out to bat in a tricky situation. From there, you have to win the match. It feels nice when you perform under more pressure. You carry that confidence,” he said.
In a high-pressure game on Sunday, the team management banked on Jadeja to make up for the lack of left-handers in the middle-order.
The mighty all-rounder @imjadeja talks 🎤 about what it’s like batting in the top order 🏏#INDvHK #ACC #AsiaCup2022… https://t.co/Tg0vOZfwjy
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“I was the only left-hander in the top seven, that’s why I was promoted. We had seen their (Pakistan) playing XI, they had a left-arm spinner and leg spinner. I was aware that I could face this situation. I prepared myself mentally accordingly,” he said.
The Indian team management is still figuring out the right combination in the run-up to the T20 World Cup. Jadeja said: “Any team which has so many batting options, like we do, will play freely. We have batters who can play any kind of game in any position.”
Against a ‘lesser’ team like Hong Kong, India’s top-three would like to turn a corner.
Hong Kong players auditioning for T20 leagues
Hong Kong had given India a scare in the previous Asia Cup, which was played in the ODI format, here in 2018. They fell 26 short in their chase of 285 then.
Four years on, Wednesday’s match against India will be more of an audition for Hong Kong’s players to impress various franchises in T20 leagues.
“These matches in the Asia Cup are very important for us. These are opportunities for individuals. If they perform, they can put their hand up for big leagues. We have players that can play franchise cricket,” Hong Kong captain Nizakat Khan, who was part of the team in 2018, said on Tuesday.
Hong Kong 🇭🇰 skipper Nizakat Khan and Head Coach, Trent Johnston address an opportunity for the team to raise the b… https://t.co/IzwW9ZU7A0
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