kohli

Indian captain Virat Kohli. (IANS file photo)

LONDON — If India skipper Virat Kohli could be defined in a word, it would be just 'passionate', and the 30-year-old has once again showed his hunger to be at his best in the Cricket World Cup 2019, currently underway here.

Kohli was seen sharpening his bowling skills at the nets May 30 at India's practice session in Southampton. The India skipper, who had earlier termed this tournament as one of the most difficult World Cup, seems to be leaving no stone unturned to prepare for the showpiece event.

It was a rare occasion when Kohli, usually seen batting at the nets, rolled his arms as well. The run-machine was seen trying a few off-cutters in the nets.

Earlier, in their first practice match on May 25, the famed Indian batting line-up struggled before the pace and swing of New Zealand bowlers, especially Trent Boult who wreaked havoc and picked up four wickets in challenging batting conditions at Southampton.

But for Ravindra Jadeja, no Indian batsmen could stay for long at the crease and the Men in Blue were bundled out for mere 179 within 40 overs, which the Black Caps chased down without hiccups.

In the second warm-up match as well, the Indian top order failed to perform as per expectations and didn't seem to be in control of their game. Only K.L. Rahul and M.S. Dhoni could make the most of the situation and score brilliant hundreds to help India post a mammoth 360-run target, which it successfully defended against Bangladesh.

Keeping aside those two knocks and the quick-fire 46-ball 47 from Kohli, it was again a case of conditions making the batsmen sweat.

ODI vice-captain Rohit Sharma, who had scored just two runs against the Kiwis, managed 19 against the Bangladesh. He was seen struggling before the pace and swing of Boult, as well as that of Mustafizur Rahman.

Same was the case with Shikhar Dhawan who could score 2 and 1 in both the warm-up matches. The much spoken about Vijay Shankar also managed just 2 on Tuesday as the Indian scoreboard read a scary 102/4 at one stage. But the 164-run partnership between Rahul (108) and Dhoni ensured that another embarrassing collapse was avoided.

However, Kohli doesn't appear much bothered by the form of his 'star openers'. "Shikhar and Rohit are quality players. They become stars in ICC events. I understand if guys don't get going right away in this format, but I am glad with what we got out of these two games," the skipper said on May 28.

When it comes to bowling, the Indian bowlers didn't have much to defend against the Black Caps. But still, they put up a good show, especially Jasprit Bumrah who was magnificent with his line and length. He bowled at a brisk pace and returned with figures of 2/4 from the four overs he bowled. Against Bangladesh as well, the No. 1 ODI bowler didn't let go off the guard and kept on creating problems for the batsmen, especially Litton Das, who struggled a lot against the in-swinging deliveries from Bumrah.

The lanky Indian pacer picked two wickets for 25 runs in his five overs and rang warning bells for the opposition teams going into the World Cup. The highlight of Bumrah in both the matches was the two yorkers he bowled to get wickets of Colin Munro and Shakib al Hasan.

Another positive aspect of the Indian bowling attack was the performance of their spin dual — Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. Both of them scalped three wickets apiece and showed their importance, both in terms of picking wickets and putting a brake at the scoring rate.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami bowled within themselves in both the games and seemed to be in good rhythm.

Going into the first match against South Africa to be played on June 5, the Indian top-order, especially the openers, will have to come to the party and make sure they provide the team with a solid start and lay the platform for Kohli and others to post big totals on the flat English decks.

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