Bowling a big worry and other things learned for India from Cricket Australia XI draw

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India wrapped up their preparations for the upcoming Test series against Australia with a tame draw in the sole warm-up tour game against a Cricket Australia XI in Sydney.

The tourists were made to toil, especially with the ball, as the CA XI led by Sam Whiteman put in a strong showing against the No1 ranked Test outfit.

The three days of action at the Sydney Cricket Ground will have taught the Indian team plenty about their squad ahead of the Test battle with the Aussies.

Here, we look at the three major things learned for Virat Kohli and his men.

ROHIT OR VIHARI QUESTION VEXES INDIA

While the middle-order looks fairly settled for India heading into the Test series with Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, question marks remain over the No6 position.

India currently have two contenders for that role in the form of Hanuma Vihari and Rohit Sharma who was handed a shock Test recall for the series. While Vihari is a newcomer to the international fold with just one Test under his belt, he was a consistent performer on the domestic circuit for his former state team Andhra Pradesh over the course of the past year.

Rohit, on the other hand, has been given opportunities aplenty in the Test format but has failed to grab it every single time with his inconsistencies.

Both batsmen were given a run in the tour game and performed nearly identically with Rohit scoring 40 in the first innings while Vihari registered a half-century.

As such, the team management is no closer to deciding between the pair and who takes the field at the Adelaide Oval remains anyone’s guess.

Rohit Sharma is locked in a tussle with Vihari for the No6 slot.

Rohit Sharma is locked in a tussle with Vihari for the No6 slot.

BOWLING A HUGE WORRY

India arrived on Australian shores with an impressive pace unit in tow but, after their shortcomings, have been laid bare in just one practice game. Despite facing a CA XI unit comprised of many newcomers with barely any first-class experience, India’s bowlers were put through the grind as the hosts amassed 544 runs in their first innings.

Mohammed Shami (3-97) was the pick of India’s bowlers and even he went at more than four runs an over against the inexperienced hosts. Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav had to toil for 50 overs combined to share two wickets between them while Ravichandran Ashwin picked up just the two scalps after throwing down 40 overs of his off-spin.

Jasprit Bumrah was used with caution, bowling only seven deliveries for his one wicket, but the rest of India’s bowlers looked toothless on a slow pitch with not much assistance on offer for the pacers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, meanwhile, was not given a bowl at all.

Kohli will hope that there is more aid for his bowlers at the Adelaide Oval or else India could be in trouble big time.

Not much luck for India's pacers.

There was not much luck for India’s pacers.

VIJAY AND RAHUL FIND TIMELY FORM AFTER SHAW SETBACK

Day three of the tour game brought India a severe setback they could have done without as Prithvi Shaw limped off the field in agony after injuring his ankle. The young opening batsman has now been ruled out of the opening Test and could be a big doubt for the second.

Kohli would have been banking on the attacking youngster to get India off to some flying starts in the series but he will now have to look at other avenues for the opening slot.

Luckily for the Indian skipper, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul have found some form at just the right time. The two openers were on song in the second innings on Saturday with Rahul carving a much more fluent 62 while Vijay struck a quick-fire century.

Rahul had been in woeful form for some time while Vijay has only been recalled to the Indian Test team after being dropped from the squad following his horrendous showing in England. India do have the option of calling up Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal as a replacement for Shaw but Vijay’s experience and Rahul’s talent could be just what they need for the Test battle against the hosts.

Timely knocks by Vijay an Rahul in India's second innings.

There were timely knocks by Vijay and Rahul in India’s second innings.

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Pakistan great Shahid Afridi believes T10 format can be cricket's ticket to Olympics

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Shahid Afridi in action for Pakhtoons in the T10 League.

Former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi believes the T10 format could be cricket’s route to the Olympic Games.

The veteran is currently representing the Pakhtoons franchise in the second edition of the T10 League in the UAE and feels that the format has come on leaps and bounds since its introduction.

“I think this is the best cricket (T10) you can introduce in the Olympic Games,” Afridi was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.

“I think you can take the game there and show the world what cricket is all about. I think this is the perfect format to introduce cricket and we are all enjoying it, which is the main thing.”

The 38-year-old is playing in his second season in the T10 League and believes that the format has the capability to change the way cricket is played.

“It’s quick fire, a big test of bowlers. Batsmen can show their skills and I saw myself some great innings, some great skills, some great shots,” the former Pakistan international stated.

“I think cricket will change with (T10). Even T20 and one-day cricket will change with this cricket. I think you can take it (around the world) definitely because of the time.”

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been attempting to push for cricket’s inclusion in the Olympics for some time. Just recently, the governing body made a bid for women’s T20 cricket to be included in the 2022 Commonwealth Games to be held in England.

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Afghanistan to take on Ireland in one-off Test match in March 2019

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Roberts feels four-day Tests are the need of the hour.

Ireland and Afghanistan will square off in a one-off Test match in India in March next year in what will be the first ever overseas Test for the Irish.

Cricket Ireland on Friday made the announcement as they confirmed their itinerary for the clashes against Afghanistan, set to get under way at the end of February next year.

The two sides will first play a three-match T20 series followed by five ODIs which will all be held in Dehradun, Afghanistan’s temporary home.

The historic Test between the two sides will also be held at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Dehradun. The Test will commence on St. Patrick’s Day – March 17.

It is the second-ever Test outing for both nations, who were given full ICC memberships last year. Ireland took on Pakistan at home in their maiden Test while Afghanistan were hosted by India at Bengaluru.

Batsman Andrew Balbirnie described the tour as a historic one for Irish cricket.

“The Afghanistan series is a major step forward for Irish cricket as the tour is our first major tour as a full member,” he said.

“It will no doubt be a test for the entire squad – taking on Afghanistan in subcontinent conditions will require a level of adjustment by both our batting and bowling units.

“As we saw here at home in the summer, Afghanistan is a quality side with some world-class players, and will be a great challenge in their ‘home’ conditions.”

Ireland are also slated to take on England in a one-off Test at the iconic Lord’s cricket ground in July next year.

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