When Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali were ripping through the West Indies batting line-up on that scratchy surface at the Dubai International Stadium, half a kilometer away the Indian batters put extra emphasis on fine-tuning their skills against slow bowling at the ICC Academy Ground during their optional training session on the eve of the high-voltage clash against Pakistan.
Not sure whether they were getting any live update from the ground but most of the Indian batters had an overdose of spin at the nets with the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Varun Chakravarthy, and Axar Patel rolling their arms over. Even Suryakumar Yadav was spotted auditioning for the six bowler’s role with some handy off-spin and succeeded to beat his skipper Virat Kohli on quite a few occasions.
For the batters, the emphasis was clearly on going after the spinners. After mistiming a few, Kohli was seen using his feet and hitting straight sixes against Ashwin and Yadav. Even Jadeja was not spared. In the recently-concluded Indian Premier League, the Indian captain had struggled to keep up his strike rate against spin. And considering the Dubai surface (the same track that was used in the West Indies vs England game), Pakistan think-tank might look to target him with the likes of Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, and Mohammad Hafeez.
Hence, such precautions.
Not just Kohli, others like KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, and even Shreyas Iyer too were mostly fed the same sort of bowling plan when they batted at the nets. And most of them seemed comfortable while going after the slow bowlers.
Meanwhile, considering the presence of Shaheen Shah Afridi in the opponent camp, the India batters also got to face the left-arm angle during Saturday's session. Baroda pacer Lukman Meriwala bowled a long spell against the batters who are likely to feature in India XI on Sunday. There were also left-arm throwdowns, under the watchful eyes of mentor MS Dhoni, who seemed very proactive throughout the session.
Nevertheless, Iyer spending quite a bit of time at the nets raised a few eyebrows amongst the journalists present there, especially considering the fact that Hardik Pandya along with Ishan Kishan were missing from the session. Iyer is not a part of India's primary 15-member squad and has been kept in the reserves, yet he got a lot of attention from Ravi Shastri and other members of the Indian support staff during this final practice session before the high-pressure encounter. After batting, he was also seen bowling for some time.
Perhaps, the management is preparing to look beyond Pandya, who is still not bowling fit, as informed by Kohli in his pre-match presser.
On the bowling front, it was business as usual with the first-choice pace bowlers having a light workout. Most of them bowled in short bursts to stay fresh for the game. Though Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled for a while, which suggests that he may not be part of the XI against Pakistan. Instead, the team management is likely to go ahead with the all-round option of Shardul Thakur, who hit some lusty blows against the likes of Umran Malik and Chakravarthy.
Amongst the spinners Chakravarthy, by far, bowled the most number of deliveries during the entire session whereas Ashwin and Jadeja were taking breaks in between.
Though these days it is pretty hard to predict a possible XI from the net sessions, especially for a team like India, Saturday’s session has made one thing crystal clear that Kohli and Co. are desperate to keep options in hand across departments going into this T20 World Cup.