Veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin went through an engaging net session in Chennai, ahead of World Cup 2023 match between India and Australia. Ashwin could be included as the third spinner behind Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav against the Aussies ahead of pacer Shardul Thakur considering a possibly gripping pitch at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, and his hold over veterans David Warner and Steve Smith. Ashwin, who takes the ball away from the left-handers with his off-breaks, has had the measure of Warner in the past, dismissing him 11 times in the Tests.
The Aussie had batted right-handed in the recent second ODI against India at Indore to counter Ashwin.
Smith, a consistent run-scorer in ODIs, too had his struggles against the Indian maestro, especially in Test cricket.
Hence, it would not be a big surprise to see Ashwin getting a nod ahead of Thakur in the first match at Chepauk.
Ashwin, who replaced injured Axar Patel in India’s World Cup squad, bowled for an extended session at the nets here to Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan, Thakur among others.
Before rolling his arm, the Chennai man also spent considerable time at nets polishing his batting skills.
Ashwin started the batting session facing throwdowns from the side-arm specialists in the squad before testing his skills against regular India bowlers and a set of local net bowlers.
Ashwin, who has always been a sweet timer of the ball, impressed with his ability to play the aerial shots, something that will be handy if he comes out to bat at No. 8.
It was the second practice session of India ahead of their match against Australia, and everyone except Shubman Gill turned up for the action.
Star batter Virat Kohli looked in fine touch during his nearly 45 minutes stint at nets, unfurling his trademark drives against pacers and throwdown specialists.
Shreyas, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Kishan too had a good hit.
While Surya, Kishan and Jadeja looked in fine touch playing those big shots, Iyer was occasionally tested with short-pitched deliveries, which he connected well while playing the pull shots over square leg and deep fine-leg.
Later, the bowlers such as Jasprit Bumrah, Kuldeep, Thakur too devoted a bit of time to strengthen their abilities with the bat.
Rahul, who returned to top-level action during the Asia Cup after a long injury layoff, was also seen spending some time with head coach Rahul Dravid, who gave the batter some throw-ins.
Among the bowlers, pacers Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj came out with full intensity and occasionally troubled Iye and Thakur with deliveries that moved away from the batters.
However, there was no extra preparatory session against the left-arm pace of Mitchell Starc. It may be recalled that Indian batters had engaged in full-scale training during the Asia Cup to tackle Pakistan left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Starc was lethal in the warm-up match against Netherlands, taking a hat-trick while swinging the ball prodigiously in.
However, the conditions in Chennai could be vastly different from the rainy Thiruvananthapuram.
Starc has traditionally troubled the Indian batters. In India, he has taken 12 wickets in eight ODIs, including a fifer, against the Men in Blue at an average of 39.41 and his economy stands at 6.50.
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