The 45,000-strong turnout expected at the Jamtha cricket stadium near here and Indian cricket fans everywhere else will hope that Jasprit Bumrah will be able to block out the gloomy weather and lift the mood after the loss at Mohali.
Bumrah’s return will see local player Umesh Yadav missing out but with less than a month to go to the World Cup, such sentiments will have no say in selection. “Jasprit Bumrah is absolutely ready. Nothing to worry,” teammate Suryakumar Yadav told reporters on Thursday.
Having a score of 208 bested by the opposition can be demoralising for the bowlers even on the most unresponsive of tracks. In T20, bowlers can induce false strokes through quality defensive bowling. But in Mohali and the Asia Cup, India’s bowlers were unable to force the issue enough or check the scoring rate. Their bowling woes have not been restricted to the death overs, where the numbers clearly do not stack up. In the absence of an enforcer, the middle overs too, remain a concern.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harshal Patel had a particularly bad game in Mohali, their collective returns reading 8-101-0. “Bhuvi bhai has been doing it for many years. Harshal’s slower balls are really deceptive. He’s worked very hard at them. He’s coming back from an injury. So, give him some benefit (of the doubt),” said Yadav.
Amid continuing rest and rotation, players taking trips to the National Cricket Academy for maintenance, on Friday, India, for the first time in a while, are likely to play their first-choice bowling unit: Bumrah, Kumar, Patel, Hardik Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Bumrah has five T20Is, including three against South Africa that follow, to get his rhythm back ahead of the World Cup. The Indian camp, particularly the trainers who have worked overtime to get him back, would be hoping that Bumrah’s back holds up when he steps on to the field after nine weeks.
Refusing to read too much into the results, captain Rohit Sharma has dared the players to try new things to discover their full T20 potential. The top three heavyweights, Sharma included, have showed glimpses of how damaging they can be. Sharma in his 41-ball 71 against Sri Lanka at Dubai, Kohli during his 61-ball 122* against Afghanistan and KL Rahul while scoring the 35-ball 55 in the last match were searching for boundaries first, singles later. The trio is yet to fire together, though.
Is that too much to ask, given the new high-risk approach? “We do have a second line of defence. We have discussed what we need to do if we are 10/3 and when we are 50/0,” Sharma had said at the start of the series. Some more cues, a few more answers from these preparatory series will determine if any tweak in batting tempo is required.
Threat of rain
The sun didn’t show up for most of Thursday. Although, it didn’t rain heavily, the weather remained largely overcast and the soggy outfield forced the teams to cancel training sessions. Being indoors on a rainy day is the worst way to prepare but so close to a World Cup, the teams didn’t want to risk even a fielding or a warm-up session on a far-from-ideal outfield.
In an ideal world, India would have liked a catching work-out, having dropped three chances in the previous match and general fielding standards having seen a dip in recent times.
Even though the threat of rain looms over the match, local officials remain hopeful that the efficient drainage system at the ground will ensure action if it doesn’t rain during match hours.
The visitors took a number of positives from Mohali. Topping the pile would be the win in the absence of a number of regulars like Dave Warner, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Starc.
For India, pundits will again try to unravel the method behind the selection madness in which one of Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik makes the team. Karthik did not come out at No. 6 in Mohali even when a wicket fell in the 14th over and his perceived adverse-match-up Adam Zampa had finished his quota. Instead, Axar Patel walked in and could not do score too many. With Ravindra Jadeja absent, Axar will try again and see if some of his bowling success rubs off on his batting.