Watch as India captain Virat Kohli faces a fiery spell in the nets

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Virat Kohli during training in Adelaide.

India captain Virat Kohli is leaving no stone unturned in his effort to be in the best possible shape going into the first Test against Australia which begins in Adelaide on Thursday.

Kohli enjoyed a brilliant tour of Australia in 2014/15 as he scored a little under 700 runs in four Tests. And he is is the undisputed No1 batsman in the world this year, having scored just under 600 runs on an arduous tour of England when no other batsman made even 400 runs.

The India skipper knows he will be the main target of Australia’s fast bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in the Test series. And he prepared for that challenge by facing top Indian quicks during an intense training session in Adelaide.

India’s pacers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav gave it their all as they bowled to Kohli, who also took numerous throwdowns from the support staff.

Watch the video below.

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Why wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav is crucial for India in Australia Test series

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Kuldeep Yadav.

India have a problem. As the No1 Test team in the world prepares for the four match Border Gavaskar series Down Under, their concerns have flipped on its head within the space of one warm-up game.

Entering the series, it was believed India’s batsmen needed to pull their socks up as after a thoroughly underwhelming tour of England where captain Virat Kohli waged a lone battle, scoring nearly 600 runs in a low-scoring series that the Indian lost 4-1.

Captain Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri insist this is one of the best Indian teams ever. All they need is for a few batsmen to find form as they have the bowlers who can take 20 wickets. I am of a similar opinion as well; not about this being the best Indian team though.

The Indian management had managed to extend their sole warm-up game before the Test series in Sydney to a four-day affair in order to give their Test hopefuls an extended run. The Test regulars were already being prepared for the Test series, playing against New Zealand A in unofficial Tests across the Tasman sea.

And then, the warm-up game against an extremely weak Cricket Australia XI happened. India were tested batting first on a greenish SCG pitch as they managed 358. Then with the ball, things went sideways.

Limited overs batsman D’Arcy Short was the only batsman of any repute in the Aussie side. Yet the hosts piled on a little under 550 – against the entire Indian Test attack.

There were contributions all the way down to number 11 as Indian bowlers – specially off-spinner Ravi Ashwin (2-122 from 40 overs) and pacer Umesh Yadav (1-113 from 28) – were kept out in the sun.

If bowling extended spells was the aim, then the Indian management succeeded. But it is difficult to think the Indians wanted their bowlers to stay out in the field and simply bowl overs. No one ‘under-performs’ like that in a tour game for practice.

What happened is India’s bowlers received a reality check.

They took 20 wickets in Tests on extremely helpful pitches in South Africa and England where the ball swung and seamed on all days throughout the three sessions. On the flat drop-in pitches in Australia, that won’t happen no matter how much grass the Australians leave on the pitch.

Day Three and Four will be hard grinds for bowlers and the Indian management must have wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav in the XI as he, along with Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, look like the only bowlers who can take wickets on any pitch.

There are many permutations and combinations out there regarding the Playing XI for the first Test in Adelaide. India must decide if they go with the extra batsman or five bowlers. Whatever they do, Kuldeep must play as his wrist spin is the only guarantee when the going gets tough. Once the pitch flattens out in the second innings, finger spinners like Ravi Ashiwn and Ravindra Jadeja will be like canon fodder. Neither has developed his bowling for hard wickets like Aussie offie Nathan Lyon, who thrives on such pitches.

Granted, Kuldeep’s selection on a greentop at Lord’s against England was a disastrous call but the conditions there were excessively loaded in favour of swing bowlers. That won’t be the case in Australia.

Kuldeep’s wrist spin can produce wickets even after 50 overs in the second essay on a flat pitch. You can’t say that about Ashwin or Jadeja. And that is the bottom line – India’s bowlers won’t get quick 20 wickets. It’s high time the management realises it.

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India U19 World Cup star Shubman Gill hits seventh fifty-plus score in nine innings

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Shubman Gill.

India‘s Under19 World Cup star Shubman Gill is in rich form at the moment, churning out runs in all formats.

The talented batsman emerged as a bright prospect for India’s batting following the U19 World Cup where he was the second highest run scorer with 372 runs from six games including one ton and three fifties.

He was picked up by Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL. The Punjab batsman has continued his superlative form in domestic cricket, putting runs on board in white and red ball matches.

Gill averages 49 in 34 List A matches and nearly 60 after four first-class games. The 19-year-old hit four fifty-plus scores in six List A games – including a century – and took that form to first-class games, hitting two fifties in the Ranji Trophy match against Andhra last month.

Then, turning up for India ‘A’ against New Zealand A in the third unofficial Test in Whangarei, Gill hit 62.

That took his tally to seven fifty plus scores in his last nine outings. That’s an incredibly consistent run across formats and conditions.

It augurs well for Indian cricket that their U19 stars are performing consistently. Gill’s U19 teammate Prithvi Shaw has already made a whirlwind start to international cricket. He hit a century and a fifty in his first two Tests and has been pencilled in for the Australia tour. While Shaw has injured his ankle and is out of the first Test, he should feature in the Test series at some point.

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