Says experience of playing one-and-a-half seasons of the IPL in the UAE “put me in good stead” for the T20 World Cup
“The bubble is really hard. It was all okay when it started with the IPL in 2020. We came out of five months of no cricket so we were excited to just play cricket. But the bio bubbles have been going on for so long that it is really hard”
Dhoni has often been described as an emotion by the observers and fans of the game, an emotion that binds everyone and above all, the Indian dressing room.
Rahul endorsed this view, describing him as the man everyone looks up to. “We loved having him in the dressing room when he was the captain. We loved the calmness. We have all looked up to him to help us out, to have him here is amazing,” he said. “This gives us a sense of calmness, I have enjoyed spending time with him in the first two to three days and it has been a lot of fun. Looking forward to chewing his brain about cricket, captaincy and all things cricket.”
Dhoni recently led Chennai Super Kings to a fourth IPL title and there is a chance that he will play one last time in front of the Super Kings’ home crowd at Chepauk in 2022. “None of us are sure that IPL 2021 final was his last game,” Rahul said.
Rahul feels that despite being on the other side of 40, the former skipper can hit the farthest sixes, beating some of the more muscular youngsters.
“I think Dhoni can give any of us stiff competition, he definitely is a guy who can hit the ball farthest, he is very strong and he is good (while running) between the wickets. He looks the fittest, it is good fun to have him,” Rahul said.
Rahul has been one of the most consistent T20 performers for India, with astounding returns of 659, 593, 670 and 626 runs in the last four editions of IPL. And the fact that the last one-and-a-half editions of the IPL have been played in the UAE makes him confident of a good show from himself and the team.
“Playing consistently has helped me. The six-seven IPL games have helped us adapt to the conditions. The experience of playing in UAE last year helped me know what shots to play and will put me in good stead in preparing for the upcoming World Cup,” he said.
But life in biobubbles has been taking its toll, he conceded.
Rahul, like most of the senior players, has been in biobubbles since June, and it is also the seventh confined environment he has been in starting with the IPL 2020, followed by the Australia tour (till he left due to injury), the England home series, the first half of the IPL in India, the World Test Championship, the Test series in England, the second half of IPL, and the T20 World Cup.
“The bubble is really hard. It was all okay when it started with the IPL in 2020. We came out of five months of no cricket so we were excited to just play cricket. But the bio bubbles have been going on for so long that it is really hard,” he said.
However, the positive side of bubble, according to him, is getting to know team-mates better as there is very little in-person interaction with outside world.
“The bubbles have gotten the team a lot closer because we spend a lot of time together and can’t interact with others. We try to do what best we can in the bubble. I am hanging out with Hardik’s son mostly; I love kids and love playing with kids.”
Ind vs NZ, 1st Test, 5th day, 2021 – Rahul Dravid
Too early to decide on Iyer’s place in the next Test, says India coach
Dravid was asked if he was worried about Rahane’s lack of runs. “I don’t get worried, you don’t get worried,” Dravid said. “Of course you would like more runs from Ajinkya. I am sure he would like a few more runs. He is a quality player. He has done well for India in the past. He is one of those guys who has that quality. He has the experience. Hopefully it’s just a matter of an innings, a matter of a game where he can turn it around. Certainly he would like to score more runs. He knows that. And we know that.”
The lack of runs became stark when full-time captain Virat Kohli rested and his replacement Shreyas Iyer responded by becoming the first India player to score a century and a half-century on Test debut. Usually you see the replacement player make way for the one returning, but when there are others struggling in the side, the question is asked: how can you drop a debutant centurion when others are not scoring runs? Dravid was asked, too, if Iyer would be retained in the side.
“We haven’t decided the playing XI for Mumbai,” Dravid said. “It will be too early to talk about it. We have only been thinking about this Test till now. When we get to Bombay, we will look at the conditions, the pitch. We will look at the guys’ fitness. Virat Kohli will also join us so there will be consultation with him. Then we will decide who will be in the playing XI.”
Apart from Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara has been short of runs too, having last scored a century in January 2019. Even Kohli has gone two years without a century, but he has played fewer Tests than the duo, missing three Tests in Australia and one now. An interesting first selection awaits the Kohli-Dravid captain-coach team.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
‘I feel like I have nothing to lose’
Preparation is being disrupted by the weather and there are concerns around Covid-19, but the focus is on the Gabba
Buttler is part of the second group of England players who have now joined the full squad following their quarantine after the T20 World Cup but on leaving their Gold Coast camp for Brisbane they encountered torrential rain which wiped out the opening day of their final warm-up match.
Buttler did not play England’s most recent Test, against India at The Oval, due to paternity leave but had been due to regain his place for the Old Trafford match that was called off due to Covid-19 concerns. Overall it was a disjointed home season with no great Test reward for Buttler, who missed the New Zealand series due to the IPL and then made 72 runs in five innings against India, but he is ready to embrace the challenge in Australia.
“I feel like I have nothing to lose, to be honest,” he said. “It’s sort of been disjointed, that [year] just gone. Some good form and some bad form and in the year before as well. It’s the first time I’m experiencing an Ashes series [in Australia] so I’m fully determined to enjoy all the challenges that throws up. I’m excited to experience it, the good the bad, and I’m sure the highs and lows along the way.
“As a player at the minute I’m trying to bring a fearless approach and to truly try and embrace the opportunity. I know when I get to somewhere near my best that’s going to be pretty good.”
Buttler has reasonably extensive experience playing in Australia although it has all been in the white-ball formats. He averages 38.71 from 18 ODIs, has played five T20Is and has had Big Bash stints with Melbourne Renegades and most recently Sydney Thunder.
“Familiarity with some conditions is something I can dip into and hopefully not be surprised by,” he said. “But I think the challenge always as a player is to adapt to any conditions that are in front of you and adapt quickly. The practice, when you can practice, is incredibly important for that and your first five, 10 balls are vital as a player to understanding the conditions and playing accordingly. But certainly I will try to dip into that experience and I’m in my early 30s now so played quite a bit of cricket and hopefully know what to expect.”
As ever in the current world there could be further complications thrown the way of the series. It remains to be seen whether Covid-19 protocols will need to be tightened following the emergence of the Omicron variant – with cases detected in arriving passengers in New South Wales – and the impact any potential changes to international border restrictions could have on families.
Buttler was among the players to raise concerns about families not being able to join the tour but he said it was too early to be worrying about a scenario where they were unable to fly out.
“It’s a hypothetical situation at the minute. Until we get told that something’s changed there’s no decision to make and it just adds to the unknown. So it’s things I don’t really need to worry about at the moment. If something like that happens I have to get the information and we can work through it and see how that looks.”
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
Ban vs Pak 1st Test
Nurul Hasan was named as Yasir’s concussion substitute, although he won’t be allowed to keep wicket
The incident occurred at the end of the 30th over when Yasir ducked into a Shaheen Shah Afridi bouncer. Yasir briefly took his eye away from the delivery while getting under the ball, and was hit on the helmet.
Bangladesh’s physio Bayejidul Islam checked Yasir immediately, and he went back to batting. But an over later, Bayejid came back to check on Yasir during the drinks break, after which he walked off.
The team director Khaled Mahmud confirmed a few minutes later that Yasir was out of the Test match, with Nurul as his replacement. Yasir has been taken to Imperial Hospital for a CT scan. A BCB statement said later that “he is medically stable. However, as a precaution, he will be observed for 24 hours at the hospital.”
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
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