Under Mumbai skies while local trains rushed from the nearby Churchgate station, a few Indian cricketers limbered up inside the Wankhede Stadium. Up in the stands, a Sachin Tendulkar statue, set to be unveiled on November 1, was getting the finishing touches.
The maestro stood frozen in his lofted shot, all power and panache. By a coincidence, the accent was on batting while the optional net session gained steam in Mumbai on October 31.
K.L. Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, R. Ashwin, Shardul Thakur and Ishan Kishan turned up with Rahul Dravid and his coaching associates keeping a close watch.
Ashwin and Jadeja turned their arm for a while and local bowlers ran in relentlessly, trying to impress their established heroes. The focus seemed on both the straight bat and the clean strike down the ground.
Shreyas tried to finesse his bat-swing while hoisting the bowlers. Having found fielders with waiting palms in his earlier games, it was understandable that the batter was keen to fine-tune his timing.
Southpaws Kishan and Jadeja essayed steep pulls, Suryakumar drilled a few down the ground, Rahul attempted a reverse-scoop over the imaginary slips, Shardul bristled with the bat and Ashwin too flexed his willow.
Be it Shreyas, Rahul or Suryakumar, they all have had their individual moments over the last fortnight. But it is a fact that the senior combine of skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli scored a combined tally of 752 runs while the team overall posted 1430 over six matches.
The numbers clearly hint that Rohit and Kohli have contributed 52.58% of India’s cumulative total.
The duo’s immense shadow may dwarf other batting colleagues but as the Men in Blue ease into the last stretch of the World Cup’s league phase before leaping into the knockout phase, a more collective endeavour may become essential. The upcoming games, against Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Netherlands, offer further opportunities for India’s batting arsenal to evolve and progress.
With Hardik Pandya missing temporarily due to an ankle injury, India does have a long tail even if Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Kuldeep Yadav do believe that they can contribute. The onus on run-accumulation however entirely rests upon the men ahead of them in the batting tree.
Being the host and saddled with the unenviable task of play-travel-repeat routine, India’s other key challenge is to remain fresh.
The rockstar departures and arrivals in diverse airports across the country, with co-passengers and airport staff becoming gushing fans, makes for good social-media content, but the eventual path is fixated upon the final at Ahmedabad on Nov. 19.
Just as ‘Maximum City’s’ hustle and bustle quadrupled with an approaching evening of rush-hour traffic, Shreyas remained still and replicated the pull shot against constant throw-downs from the coaching staff.
Even Dravid darted a few short and hard into the turf while the Mumbaikar rocked back and pulled.
In the days ahead, if Rohit and Kohli’s batting mates can stretch their cameos, India, dominant now, will continue to remain unassailable.