Clues from the Mohali nets: Virat Kohli the sixth bowler, Axar Patel the floater

Virat Kohli, who has been called India’s back-up opener by captain Rohit Sharma, might also become the team’s sixth or seventh bowling option in the upcoming T20I series against Australia and South Africa ahead of the T20 World Cup.

On the eve of the first T20I against Australia in Mohali, the former India captain bowled with his cross-legged action for at least 30 minutes after facing a barrage of short deliveries from Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav in the nets.

Kohli, who bowled a solitary over against Hong Kong in the recently-concluded Asia Cup, was seen rolling his arm over, watched by coach Rahul Dravid. There was also a Kohli celebration after he troubled Axar Patel a couple of times.

Spotlight on Axar Patel

Axar Patel, who has replaced the injured Ravindra Jadeja, had an extended batting session. The 28-year-old has always been Jadeja’s back-up, and has lived up to the challenge whenever he was called into action. Axar mostly faced spinners R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal, apart from Kohli’s dibbly-dobblies.

With the way India have been experimenting, we might see the left-hander used as a floater in the batting order to have a go at the spinners. Against South Africa earlier this year in Cuttack, India had sent in Axar in the 13th over ahead of Dinesh Karthik to allow the finisher to come in later during the death overs.

Bumrah cranks up the pace

Jasprit Bumrah, who is returning from a back injury, was doing what he does best, troubling batters for fun. Bumrah found the outside edge of both Kohli and KL Rahul’s bats on several occasions before he had a go at Hardik Pandya.

Jasprit Bumrah admitted that it is “difficult to manage workload” across three formats and that’s why preference during a particular year is on the format in which India is playing a global event. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

In between, he also shared a good 30 minutes with the Punjab Cricket Association’s net bowlers. “Ye wala acha tha, thoda aur aagey daalo (This one was good, pitch it up further),” he advised the six-seven pacers.

Then he moved to the last net, where Bhuvneshwar Kumar was batting and gave a few throwdowns to his fellow pacer before calling it a day.

Dinesh Karthik didn’t have much of a hit, while Deepak Hooda skipped the net session. Rishabh Pant practiced his power-hitting and was the one who donned the wicketkeeping gloves during the fielding session.


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