Cricket news - Kohli's practice masterclass, India's specific match-simulation routines

Virat Kohli's 91 off 58 in the practice game eclipsed an equally good effort from KL Rahul.

Virat Kohli's 91 off 58 in the practice game eclipsed an equally good effort from KL Rahul.

Virat Kohli's first stint as captain on this unique tour of Australia was rather uneventful. Apart from perhaps the period of play where KL Rahul got him to constantly move the field around with the most fluent and eye-catching of assaults. Maybe that moment when he asked Mayank Agarwal, rather politely, to keep walking off the ground after the opener stood around debating "umpire" R Sridhar's rather prompt LBW call.

Like is the case with him in such warm-up matches, especially an intra-squad one where the opponents are basically his teammates, Kohli then sat in the dressing-room hoping to find the kind of intensity that gets him going with the bat. To an extent it helped that his team slipped into a slightly precarious position in pursuit of their reasonable target in 40 overs. It meant that Kohli was now faced with the challenge of seeing his team home. He was in his zone. And according to those who witnessed the knock from close quarters, India's premier batsman then didn't just rise to occasion but managed to produce a masterclass. To the extent that his 91 off 58 balls ended up eclipsing Rahul's 66-ball 83, which in itself was quite the showcase of stroke-making. It was a knock that is being hailed by those within the team as a very promising sign of what their captain might have in store for the Aussies come the ODIs in a few days' time.

India's first intra-squad match on Sunday (November 22) was also in some ways the latest stage, if not a culmination, of what's been a steady and vigorous training regimen that the visitors have followed since landing here on November 12. With four days still left for their quarantine period to end, and for the ODI series to start, here's a rough diary of what Kohli & Co have been up to since they hopped on the chartered flight in Dubai 10 days ago.

Day 1: November 14

After two days of getting their bearings right, the first day of training for the Indians was still about breaking the shackles and shaking off the jetlag. It was also about getting used to the bubble life in Australia. While there were restrictions on them being able to even leave their respective rooms at the hotel, they were allowed to be themselves upon reaching their training venue - which is a half-hour drive from the hotel. Social distancing norms meant the 32-member strong squad along with the support staff had to travel in 3 separate buses. Once there, they were to have zero contact with anyone else, including the ground-staff who would put everything in place and leave the Oval literally to the Indians. They were provided with bottles of water and unlike in more normal circumstances weren't provided with a meal for health safety reasons.

The session for the day was mostly based around running and some fitness work.

Day 2: November 15

With no direct access to either the players or their support staff colleagues, the coaches started the day with separate conference calls to batsmen and bowlers to chalk out a rough nets schedule. It was further discussed on during travel to the stadium.

The red-ball and white-ball players were divided into groups. And while one group was in the nets, the other was made to go through some fitness and gym work. There were also some fielding and catching sessions for members of this setup. The bubble laws though didn't allow them to go through any sort of routines behind closed doors, which meant all the gym work and massage sessions were partaken in on the field.

Day 3: November 16

The format for the training schedule was the same as the day before with the two groups splitting and then later swapping for stints in the nets. There was some positive news for the Indian team with the arrival of throwdown specialist Raghu, who'd tested positive for Covid-19 a few weeks earlier but had since recovered. The integral member of the setup went straight into a 7-day hard quarantine upon landing. His absence has meant more workload for the likes of R Sridhar and Vikram Rathour alongside Nuwan Seneviratne. Some of the players too chimed in with throwdowns for their teammates.

Day 4: November 17

After two days in the nets, it was time for the two camps to move on to centre-wicket practice with some open nets - one at each end. Each group was given 2.5 hours to bat out in the middle with the reserve fast bowlers, Ishan Porel and Kartik Tyagi, shouldering the heaviest workload. Tyagi also impressed, testing Prithvi Shaw out with the short-ball and also getting the ball to beat Cheteshwar Pujara's bat.

The focus for the fast bowlers in the ODI and T20I squads was more on conditioning and maintaining workloads, with each one of them bowling 9-10 overs in the day, just like they had in the nets. The session was broken up with a lunch-break.

Day 5: November 18

In a bid to mix things up and also provide an added edge of competitiveness to their players, the team management chose to put them through some match simulation routines. They were an attempt to get Kohli & Co to get at least 60 per cent match intensity in preparation for the high-profile series coming up across formats.

The red-ball players were given various objectives that they were asked to achieve. They included getting the "Test" openers to get to 10 overs with the score on 20-0 or extend that to 40-0 in 15 overs. The likes of Pujara and Rahane were given scenarios where they are in together at 20-3 in 10 overs and have to steady the ship and see the team to some level of safety at 50-3 in 25 overs.

The new-ball bowlers meanwhile were given more straightforward tasks of dismissing the openers within 6-7 overs or just trying to build pressure at their respective ends. There were more specific goal-oriented targets set forth for the white-ball batsmen and bowlers of course. These sessions too were broken into halves of 2-and-a-half hours each.

Day 6: November 19

It was back in the nets on Thursday. The good news for the visitors was the return of Wriddhiman Saha to action. The Test specialist wicket-keeper spent a good amount of time facing throwdowns. Another key player, who's still on his way back from a serious injury break, Hardik Pandya, meanwhile began working on his bowling action. Though it remains to be seen if Pandya can go back to bowling high speeds above 140 kph like he was before breaking down last year, he's expected to be more injury-free with the alterations he's working on. It's still very unlikely that he'll bowl during the ODIs and T20Is - maybe 2 overs at the most if really needed - and the team management is confident that the X-factor he brings with the bat is good enough for him to warrant selection for the shorter formats.

Day 7: November 20

After five straight days of cricket training, Friday was all about strength and conditioning and also a good chance to be out of their rooms for the quarantining Indians. It was also a day of mourning for young Mohammad Siraj, whose father passed away back in India. While it's learnt that the manager and the doctor had sought special permission to be able to spend some time with the bereaved fast bowler in his room, it wasn't needed. Siraj did receive multiple calls and a lot of support from his teammates and coaching staff.

Day 8: November 21

Saturday was all about sprints. Every player in the squad was put through a 2K time trial to get a gauge of their fitness levels. It included Tyagi and Porel, who along with Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan are expected to stay back for the Test series as net bowlers. This is being done to make sure the Indian batsmen get to face a high level of bowling as they prepare for the Tests and also in-between matches. The other white-ball players will fly back to India upon the conclusion of the T20Is.

Day 9: November 22

It happened to be India's longest day out since arriving in Australia. The match commenced at around 1.30 pm and Rahul's fireworks lit up the contest after Siraj knocked over the openers Shikhar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal. Rahul did get some support from Pandya, who struck a few boundaries later in the day, but it was his knock and an inside-out six off Shami that stood out the most from his team's innings. Then on came the lights, and in came Kohli.

Head coach Ravi Shastri gave an interview to ABC about the series and spoke about how they were cutting it fine in getting Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma over in time for the first Test in Adelaide. It's believed that a hard quarantine for them upon arrival could well rule Ishant out from the pink-ball Test since he wouldn't have any time to prepare for it. Rohit might still get in being a batsman.

Day 10: November 23

After 9 days of intense planning and training, Monday was the first "optional" session for the players. And while R Ashwin did post a clip of him bowling on Instagram, it's mainly the batsmen who were expected to show up to face some throwdowns in the nets.

India still have three more days to go before they receive some level of freedom with regards to their movement. Just how much that'll be still remains to be seen. The Australian IPL players too have been training at the same venue but at different times and they'll reconvene as a full squad on the morning of the first ODI at the SCG. That's where the Indians will be too to kick off the highly-anticipated clash of the cricketing titans under lights on Friday (November 27).