CHENNAI: There was a cloud hanging over the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Friday. It probably reflected the mood in the Team India camp. It’s not easy losing your designated opener – and premier, in-form ODI player, who has been preparing specifically for this tournament – for the first game of a month-and-a-half long World Cup journey. That too against a team like Australia.
With the dynamic Shubman Gill down with fever – suspected to be dengue – it is highly unlikely that the right-hander will be available on Sunday. He missed the first two days of practice and it wasn’t any different on Friday, with Ishan Kishan being prepared for the role.
Coach Rahul Dravid, though, refused to completely rule Gill out of the first game. “There’s still 36 hours to go for the first match and he is feeling better today. The medical team is monitoring him and we will take a call tomorrow,” the coach said ahead of an optional training session on Friday evening.
One felt that the management was resigned to the fact that it will be a miracle of sorts if the opener, who boasts of an ODI average of 66.1 and a strike rate of 102.84, makes Sunday’s game. It does take a bit of time to recover from dengue, and even if he tests negative over the next 24 hours, Dravid and Co. will surely look to preserve him for later in the tournament.
Shubman Gill may miss India’s opener against Australia
Now it seems likely that the left-handed Kishan, instead, will go out to bat with captain Rohit Sharma. The Jharkhand left-hander has had a couple of extended batting sessions over the last two days.
Kishan opens in white-ball cricket and has a strike-rate which is almost identical to Gill’s. His average, though, is 44.3, which is significantly lower compared to Gill, who has shaped up as the poster boy of Indian cricket in recent times. Kishan can also be a bit of a suspect against genuine pace, even though he has the ability to generate easy power.
On Friday, the 25-year-old didn’t look in his best shape against the likes of Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj. There were quite a few occasions when he was beaten by the pace trio and against Australia on Sunday, things won’t get any easier. Towards the end of the session, he was seen receiving words of advice from Virat Kohli on how to deal with pace and swing.
Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins will try not to give Kishan the room that he enjoys and it can become one of the most crucial plot points of an intriguing contest on Sunday. There is also a suggestion of KL Rahul opening, but he has been batting at No. 5 and it’s unlikely that there will be a change of role so late in the day.