ICC World Cup: Kohli gears up for ‘fireworks’ on birthday; De Kock makes himself scarce before India vs South Africa


Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill got things rolling for India during the team’s optional net session ahead of the top-of-the-table clash against South Africa at the Eden Gardens on Saturday.

After a brisk round of foot volley, the top-order duo occupied the side nets in front of the Sourav Ganguly Stand. Gill proceeded to face a judicious mix of pace and spin. Kohli, who turns 35 on matchday, took on a left-arm spinner and side-arm specialist Raghu Raghavendraa.

Kohli, who initially seemed to struggle to middle the ball, got one too many off the toe end of his blade. After a rare cry of frustration, he switched places with Gill and got Ravindra Jadeja to bowl a couple at him.

Five minutes later, the former India captain looked a changed man, stepping out and smoking every bowler straight into the makeshift sightscreen. The sight pleased a few lucky fans who had somehow made it to the stands to spread some birthday cheers in advance.

Batting coach Vikram Rathour was overseeing the performance of Suryakumar Yadav, who sauntered to the other net at 6:24 p.m. He sweated it out until 7:03 p.m. before making his way back to the pavilion.

Suryakumar Yadav during a practice session ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens.

Suryakumar Yadav during a practice session ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens.
| Photo Credit:
K. R. Deepak / The Hindu

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Suryakumar Yadav during a practice session ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens.
| Photo Credit:
K. R. Deepak / The Hindu

Meanwhile, Ishan Kishan was given some high-catching practice at the High Court End.

Kohli’s exit at 6:53 p.m. saw Jadeja pad up and take his place. Rohit Sharma was the last to bat, which seemed more like a casual knock, given he was in his tracks without any protective gear.

The absence of wicketkeeper-batter Quinton de Kock at the nets was perhaps what stood out during an otherwise insipid training session for South Africa, which has now sealed its semifinal berth after Pakistan beat New Zealand by 21 runs (DLS) in a rain-marred fixture.

Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, however, bowled for hours on the centre wicket before proceeding to knock about a few balls in the side nets.

While bowling, he was momentarily joined by his spin twin Tabraiz Shamsi. Depending on what skipper Temba Bavuma and other coaches make of the wicket, there is a chance both of South Africa’s frontline spinners may feature in the final eleven on Sunday.

The South African side, seemingly in high spirits, started the evening with a short game of football.

Shamsi was playfully seen chasing another teammate with a Robo-arm after a goal was disallowed. It was during this game that de Kock was last seen, threading a few passes before walking off in his slippers.

Lungi Ngidi excused himself from this exercise to concentrate on bowling at the rubber-based target stumps.

Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram inspect the pitch during practice session ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens.

Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram inspect the pitch during practice session ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens.
| Photo Credit:
K. R. Deepak / The Hindu

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Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram inspect the pitch during practice session ahead of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens.
| Photo Credit:
K. R. Deepak / The Hindu

An hour into the session, Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Maharaj, and David Miller could be seen gathered around two kitbags for a brief, informal meet, just when Reeza Hendricks commenced batting against spin in the adjacent nets.

He played at and missed a couple of deliveries, which drew some ‘ooh’s and ‘aah’s from the net bowlers.

Miller later faced some off-spin as well before getting some throwdowns from batting coach JP Duminy.

After bowling on the centre wicket, Marco Jansen had a hit against spinners as well, trying to shimmy down and negate the turn.

Former BCCI president Ganguly cameoed during an unofficial inspection of the ground earlier in the day. He was seen interacting with a few members of the South African backroom staff before leaving through the exit adjacent to the BC Roy Clubhouse.



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