NEW DELHI: It's just past 6 PM in New Delhi. The scathing heat that was prevalent throughout the day has come down as Indian players walk onto the field at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on the eve of the clash against Afghanistan. Among the first to finish the warm-up and walk across the ground to the batting nets behind one corner of the Gautam Gambhir Stand was Ishan Kishan.
Two nights ago, the left-handed opener slashed at Mitchell Starc on the very first delivery he faced only to edge it to the slip cordon. From the dressing room, he had to watch India go down to 2/3, before Virat Kohli and KL Rahul India home against Australia. Ahead of the Afghanistan game, questions were raised over Kishan's dismissal to batting coach Vikram Rathour and he backed the youngster to the hilt. "He has played as an opener. No specific discussion on that. That was the reason he has been in the team. We knew that he could bat at the top of the order or in the middle order. He has done that before. Just hoping he comes good tomorrow," he said.
Less than 20 minutes after the presser, Kishan was in the nets, trying to get into the groove. It was an optional practice session for which none of the bowlers, except Shardul Thakur and Ravindra Jadeja, turned up and neither did Rahul and Kohli. Kishan was in the second nets under the watchful eyes of head coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma, who was next in turn to bat. Facing the local net bowlers in Delhi, Kishan struggled to put bat on ball for a while. He was bowled, hit on the pads, constantly edging deliveries so much that he had a chat in between with Dravid as Sharma and Kishan took turns. Even as Sharma was timing the ball well, Kishan seemed scratchy.
After a while, he had a chat with Dravid and moved to a different net where he faced some spin. There, too, Kishan was not able to time the ball fluently. He even lost his stumps again. He had a discussion with the left-arm throwdown specialist Nuwan Seneviratne and had him sling deliveries at pace. He struggled, but continued to try, delivery after delivery. By this time it's been over an hour since he entered the nets. Sharma had left, and so had Jadeja. Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav were batting in the other two nets with Thakur being the only one from the squad to bowl. Watching Kishan toiling hard despite not finding his touch, it seemed like he did not want to leave the nets until he feels good about his batting.
Eventually, he asked Seneviratne to call upon the pacers who troubled him. This time, he was holding his shape and timing the ball well. He pulled, whipped, guided the ball behind point, defended and cut behind square with ease. After almost 80 minutes in the nets, he seemed content and asked them to bowl one ball each. Then followed the cover drive, backfoot punch, and a solid defence. He even jumped out of the crease and drove through covers before finishing his stint with an authoritative pull over midwicket. When he walked out of the nets, he looked a lot more confident than when he got in. While it may or may not reflect in the batting when he face Afghanistan bowlers, Kishan had given himself every chance to prepare for the challenge.
The other significant thing from India's net session was Thakur's presence who bowled and batted for a while as well. With a different pitch from the South Africa-Sri Lanka clash set to be used, it should not come as a surprise should Thakur come in for R Ashwin and Mohammed Shami being drafted in place of Jasprit Bumrah for the clash against Afghanistan on Wednesday.
Gill is in doubt about Pak clash
Shubman Gill, who is down with dengue and resting in Chennai, was hospitalised as his platelet count went down before being discharged on Tuesday. Rathour said that the hospitalisation was done more as a precaution and that he is back in the hotel recovering. While the medical team is continuously monitoring him, with only three days to go, it is highly unlikely that Gill will take part in the match against Pakistan in Ahmedabad on Saturday.