World Cup a year away, MS Dhoni readies for Jos Buttler battle

India take on England in the first T20 of the three match series at Manchester on Tuesday. Eye catching battles lie in store as both teams get ready for battle.

cricket Updated: Jul 02, 2018 11:47 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Manchester
Cricket,MS Dhoni,Jos Buttler
MS Dhoni’s battle with Jos Buttler will be intriguing in the T20 series. (Reuters)

Warm-up part of the tour finished without breaking much sweat against Ireland, India kicked off their preparation for a tough England series with a high-intensity training session at the Old Trafford ground on Sunday.

Making the most of the sunny weather, Virat Kohli led his team to practice early and flex muscles in preparation for the opening Twenty20 International on Tuesday. Hitting the nets first, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli all looked in fine rhythm with their timing and quality of strokeplay. Spinner Yuzvendra Chahal was bowling beautifully as well, getting the better of Rohit on a few occasions when the opener left his crease to come down the track. Chahal, however, had little impact on left-hander Dhawan, who targeted the leg-spinner to his favoured midwicket region.

Changing nets, Rohit looked in supreme touch against pacers. Fresh from an eye-catching 36-ball 70 against Ireland, Rahul looked in his zone again. Drives were flowing from Kohli’s bat too while facing throwdowns, followed by a stint against pacers.

As the top-order was winding up, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, one of the quieter members of the squad this morning, started taking out his gear. Taking guard in the spinners’ net, Dhoni’s control and body position while playing forward defence to the first few balls showed his Indian Premier League touch was very much intact.

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There was no exaggerated backlift or heavy heaves. He was getting into the position early, looking to maintain shape and bringing into play his powerful wrists. Back-to-back short arm jabs off Umesh Yadav and Siddharth Kaul even evoked a cheer from India coach Ravi Shastri.

The wrist-spin duo of Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are expected to pose the main threat to the England batsmen. Dhoni was giving an exhibition in the art of batting against spin, moving about in the crease like a boxer dancing in the ring and toying with the opponent. Chahal had him edging once when an intended drive didn’t come off a flighted delivery but that remained the only false shot of the day.

To a sharp bouncer from Yadav, Dhoni pulled out a ramp shot over the third man region and Dinesh Karthik — the man whose career suffered most due to Dhoni — couldn’t help but roar in approval.

BATTLE WITH BUTTLER

One of the face-offs everyone is eagerly waiting for in this limited overs series is Dhoni versus Jos Buttler. With superlative displays against Australia this summer, the England wicketkeeper-batsman has set up the battle to crown the best in this business. Now, he will be up against a battle-hardened warrior.

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Sunday’s nets indicated that Buttler will have to come up with something really special to outshine Dhoni. Ironically, the interest in ‘who’s the best’ was stoked at the 2018 IPL, where both of them went through a transformation, producing dominating displays for Rajasthan Royals (Buttler 548 runs at an average of 54.80) and Chennai Super Kings (Dhoni 455 runs at an average of 75.83).

Just one year is left for the next World Cup. For Buttler, there is no better stage to prove his mettle. For the 37-year-old Dhoni though, it could be the final hurray of a glorious career. This series will set the tone for that final battle.

First Published: Jul 01, 2018 22:05 IST