It was a hazy Monday morning in Mumbai, a day ahead of the beginning of the three-match ODI series between India and Australia when Virat Kohli faced Jasprit Bumrah in the nets at the Wankhede stadium. And what a contest it was! One of the best bowlers in the world steaming in and bowling to one of the best batsmen in the world. The pacer went past the edge a few times and also didn't shy away from bowling short deliveries to his captain. Kohli, meanwhile, was creaming his drives and managed to handle the short ones, even hooking the last ball he faced off Bumrah over the fence, following it up with an act of celebration.
"Bumrah has been playing for the team for the last four years now and this is probably the second time I have ever got out in the net hitting a few against him and not getting out. One was Adelaide before the Test in 2018 and one was 2018. I'm glad that was the last ball of my net session because he ran back to his mark but I got out of the nets," said Kohli about his contest with Bumrah.
"It's a fun sort of competition. According to me, he's the most skillful bowler in the world in any format of the game. To play against him...he brings match intensity in the nets, I can assure you that. He's not shy of hitting us on the head or targeting our ribs every now and then. He's a proper, proper bowler and it's always nice to play against the best in the nets. I challenge myself to play well against him, not every day do you get to hit boundaries off Jasprit in the nets. Today was one, so I'm very happy."
Rohit Sharma too had his fair share of Bumrah and the rest of the bowlers, as did KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan. It was also a good workout for the wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Hardik Pandya, despite not being in the squad, was present as well - jogging and running under the watchful eyes of the physio.
Shortly after India's net session, the Australians got into the act with the trio of David Warner, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne first hitting the three nets that were in place. While Warner was busy thumping the net spinners past the fence and Smith driving, punching and cutting the local pacemen brought in to bowl, Labuschagne - facing spin - had to work around a small box-type net placed close to the non-striker's end inside his batting enclosure. The likes of Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc weren't in action on the eve of the match but they are expected to be on Tuesday when Australia play their first ODI since their semifinal exit in the 2019 World Cup.
It's a T20 World Cup year while the World Test Championship is also gathering steam. A three-match ODI series doesn't shout relevance in this context. But when some of the best players of the world are involved - Kohli and Co. going up against the world-class Australian pace attack or a fit-and-raring-to-go Bumrah, in the company of Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini and the spinners, facing off against the power-packed Australian top order - relevance would be of least importance.
When: Tuesday, January 14 at 1:30 pm IST
Where: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
What to expect: Plenty of dew under lights. The Australians were busy practicing with wet balls a couple of days before the game. "There might be a 2 or 3 percent feeling that it might not be a big factor," said Ashton Turner when asked about the dew, stressing that toss will play a big role. Meanwhile, according to Kohli, the presence of dew will be "an opportunity for teams to put themselves in uncomfortable positions or situations - with the ball in conditions where there's dew or in the first innings with the bat. We want to do the difficult things and we're looking forward to doing that rather than just focusing on what we can do well as a team." Batting second will be the easier option but will Kohli choose that should he win the toss?
India: The hosts have quite a headache when it comes to their top order, having to choose from two of three frontline opening options. But with Kohli saying that there is "big possibility" of all three playing and that he's "very happy to" bat down the order and "not possessive" his batting position, it'll be interesting to see what kind of batting order India opt for, with Shreyas Iyer and Manish Pandey also vying for middle-order spots. While Bumrah and Shami are expected to spearhead the pace attack, it might be toss-ups between Shardul Thakur and Saini, and the wrist spinners, and one among Ravindra Jadeja and Kedar Jadhav.
Squad: Virat Kohli (c),Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul,Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami.
Australia: The last time Australia were in India, they staged a remarkable turnaround after losing the first two ODIs to clinch a 3-2 series victory. And they did that without Smith, Warner and Labuschagne in the team. The in-form trio's presence is set to serve as a further boost for Australia in this series, along with the availability of their frontline pacemen.
Squad:Aaron Finch (c), D'Arcy Short, Ashton Agar, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Marnus Labuschagne, Kane Richardson, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Ashton Turner, David Warner, Adam Zampa.
What they said:
"It doesn't make sense when people say the 'heat is on' and 'they are fighting for one spot'. I think that sends a wrong message and people should stay away from that. We are just happy that all three are playing well and we have world-class players in the team" - Virat Kohli on the opening options for India.