In less than a week, world cricket will be served with one of the two guaranteed blockbuster India-Pakistan clashes, the first being in the 2023 Asia Cup at the Pallekele International Stadium in Sri Lanka. And the biggest talking point of the clash will be the battle between India’s top-order and Pakistan new-ball sensation Shaheen Shah Afridi. India’s vulnerability to left-arm seamers is no secret – 2017 Champions Trophy to Mohammad Amir, 2019 World Cup semifinal to Trent Boult and 2021 T20 World Cup to Afridi himself. Hence, in a bid to counter the tall left-arm seamer, India have got their their very one like-for-like replacement at the training camp in Alur.
On Day 2 and 3, India batters were divided in pairs to bat in match simulations in a centre-wicket practice at the KSCA facility to gear up for the continental event, which will be followed by the ODI World Cup at home. On Saturday, Rohit Sharma batted alongside KL Rahul and opener asked Aniket Choudhary, a tall left-armer pacer, to bowl at him.
The 33-year-old has never played for India before, and may not have the same skill of getting that late movement like Afridi, but his presence at the net as a practice bowler will at give India a sense of what the Pakistan pacer would be like.
The two have faced each other only thrice in international cricket. In their only ODI meeting back in 2018 Asia Cup, Rohit had managed 19 off 18 against the southpaw en route to his match-winning century. But when Shaheen returned as a more mature bowler in 2021 T20 World Cup meeting in Dubai, he dismissed Rohit for a golden duck. The India skipper had however managed to negate the left-armer in their 2022 T20 World Cup face-off where he scored four off five.
Since the last World Cup, Rohit has been dismissed seven times in 18 innings with an average of 31. Five of those dismissals have been in the opening powerplay. Shaheen, on the other hand, has dismissed 29 right-handers in 20 innings during the same period at an average of 22, 10 of which came with the new balls.
What should Rohit Sharma do against Shaheen Afridi?
Speaking to Star Sports on Saturday as the broadcasters played the clip from Rohit’s practice session against Aniket, former India batting coach Sanjay Bangar advised the skipper to play the left-arm pacer through mid-on and mid-wicket region.
“One doesn’t get much chances to play from that angle because most of the teams have a right-hand attack and opening bowling pairs. However, the angle is very crucial keeping in mind where you want to play as a batsman because when a left-arm bowler bowls from close to the stumps and brings it inwards towards the right hand batsman. One should target the bowler, for that, the head position needs to be perfect and one needs to set himself and think of scoring runs between mid-off and mid -on / mid-wicket areas. The batsman will get a chance to get into a better position against that angle bowling and one needs to learn and know where runs can be scored against angle bowling and on what all aspects the batsman needs to focus more. So, during practice Rohit would have been focusing on these areas,” he said.