Shikhar Dhawan was training like a man possessed on Wednesday. Throw downs was followed by a long stint in the nets, facing both the pacers and spinners, before he batted against the side-arm ball thrower by the support staff.
Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Hardik Pandya had long batting sessions too. All of them will admit they have been below par and have put the team under pressure.
Batting was supposed to be India’s strength. However, it’s mainly the effort of the bowlers that has helped India reach this far. One reason for that is also the wickets. India have been happy to have slow wickets, which their spinners can cash in on.
In Thursday’s semifinal, the conditions are likely to change a bit. Although there will be turn on offer, the batsmen will have to target a total of around 180, which is likely to be par for the course. It means, the hosts will need their full batting might to put pressure on the Caribbean power-hitters.
The support for Kohli has come only from captain Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. To add to India’s woes, Yuvraj suffered a minor tear in his left ankle during the match against Australia and has been ruled out of the tournament. Without playing a big innings, the left-hander threaded together vital partnerships with Kohli in the chases against Pakistan and Australia.
The string of low scores seems to have shaken the confidence of Sharma, Dhawan, Raina and Pandya. Sharma is averaging 11.25, Dhawan 10.75, Raina 10.25 and Pandya 8. It doesn’t seem to be a case of the opposition exploiting their technical weaknesses. These batsmen have perished going for big shots. As they sweated it out in the searing heat at Wankhede, the focus was on getting their shot selection right. Team director Ravi Shastri’s main thrust has been to make his batsmen express themselves without fear of failure. In Wednesday’s training, the focus was on going through the shots without hesitation. All the batsmen worked up good intensity.
“I still believe we’ve played to 70 per cent of our ability, there’s still 30 per cent where we can improve. Let’s hope it happens tomorrow, because in a semifinal, you’ve got to get your A game. You can’t depend on one or two players, you need six or seven players to step up to the plate. It’s not happened really in this tournament, and let’s hope it does tomorrow,” said Shastri.
In the build-up to the World T20, Dhoni has focused on having a settled combination. Yuvraj’s injury has upset that. The management will have to choose between Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane and Harbhajan Singh.
Pandey can be a straight fit at Yuvraj’s No 5. To bring in Rahane though they will have to tinker with the batting order, play him at No 4 and push Raina down the order. If they are looking to have another bowling option against Chris Gayle, then Harbhajan will come in.
There was a minor scare when Ravindra Jadeja took a blow on his elbow while taking throw downs. He was grimacing in pain, but is said to be alright.