It`s cup prep time for Men in Blue!

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Team India began this year’s ODI World Cup (October-November) preparations at the same iconic venue—Wankhede Stadium—on Wednesday where MS Dhoni’s team clinched the coveted trophy in 2011. India and Australia will clash in the first of the three ODIs on Friday after a decent practice session on Wankhede’s red-soil pitches.   

Hardik call the shots

With regular skipper Rohit Sharma missing the first ODI due family commitments, stand-in-captain Hardik Pandya didn’t waste a single minute to start activities as soon as he entered the ground. He initiated the session bowling with speedster Umran Malik to left-hander Ishan Kishan. Both pacers bowled to Suryakumar Yadav for a good amount of time. The all-rounder then took guard against pacers Shardul Thakur and Malik and had some big hits against off-spinner spinner Washington Sundar. Surprisingly, Hardik also bowled some leg-spin to Suryakumar.   

Fielding coach Dilip

India’s fielding coach T Dilip, who conducted individual drills and fielding sessions with a few players, remarked that the team were focusing on direct hits. “There are certain areas where we have certainly improved over a period of time. If you look at the number of direct-hits in the [T20] World Cup and that one direct hit from KL Rahul [against Bangladesh], it changed the course of the match. So, that’s something we are looking at as a group. If you look at its overall ratio, even though there are no run outs, the number of times we have hit the stumps, has improved a bit. That’s one area we will keep improving,” Dilip said when mid-day asked him about the areas of concern for him as a fielding coach, during the press conference. “Not concerned,” he started off by saying.

The fielding coach also lavished praise on Hardik for his leadership qualities. “He’s [Hardik] the captain now officially, but he has been in our leadership group for all these matches and he’s proved in T20s what he can bring to the table as a captain. Even if Rohit is the captain, he [Hardik] is part of our leadership group. He adds a lot of value to the team.”

Also Read: `I don`t think…`: Rohit Sharma breaks silence on Virat Kohli`s `health` amid reports of illness

Kohli, Jadeja lauded

Dilip rated Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja highly for their high intensity levels even during the practice sessions and reckoned Rahul’s presence as a wicketkeeper gives more balance to the team. “We all know that KL is a wonderful player. He has a proven record. Even in ODIs, in the middle-order, he has proved enough as a batter. As a wicketkeeper, he provides a lot of balance to the team. It’s not that difficult to work on his wicketkeeping apart from refining a few aspects,” added Dilip.

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