Melbourne: They're not expected to kick the football around like professionals, but some members of India's world champion cricket outfit desperately need a crash course in football.
Virat Kohli controls the ball during a practice session at Junction Oval in St Kilda, Melbourne yesterday. Pic/Suman Chattopadhyay
Besides skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, his deputy Virat Kohli and Ambati Rayudu, most of India's cricketers struggle when they try to negotiate the bigger ball, as compared to the cherry they handle with ease. And yesterday afternoon's training session at the Junction Oval here was yet another round of football funnies.
Having returned to training for the first time since Sunday's decimation of Pakistan in their World Cup opener, the Men in Blue began their practice drills at the St Kilda Cricket Club's ground here with a game of football.
Two teams of nine members each were quickly picked. Dhoni, Kohli, Mohit Sharma, Stuart Binny, Rohit Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and coach Sanjay Bangar formed Team One. Rayudu, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ajinkya Rahane, Dhawal Kulkarni, Umesh Yadav and trainer Sudarshan formed the second team.
In the hour-long encounter, Dhoni, Kohli and Rayudu looked particularly impressive. The captain and vice captain combined beautifully to create some great moves upfront with Stuart Binny, who was no pushover either.
Rayudu, meanwhile, having been resigned to a team that seemed comparatively weaker, could do little as his team conceded goals thick and fast.
mid-day rated Team India's football skills on a scale from 1 to 10, with one being the worst of the lot and 10 being someone just short of a Sunil Chhetri, if exaggeration may be permitted.
9. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Has a good chip shot and powerful in-step shot. Accurate passer and thinking footballer just like his cricketing ability. Fine ball skills and volleying ability. Could make it to a league team, if trained regularly.
8. Virat Kohli
Smart runner and good anticipator and initiator of defence-splitting passes. Good ball skills and pretty accurate at volleys too.
7. Stuart Binny
Smart receiver of the ball. Was at the end of most passes from Dhoni and even scored a couple of goals. Balls skills not too bad either.
7. Ambati Rayudu
Good defender and quick re-tackler. Does not give up after losing the ball. Persistent and sincere, just like his batting ability. Good ball skills.
6. Suresh Raina
Hardworking defender. Persistent when it comes to tackling a forward. Ironically, he's not comfortable judging the high bouncing ball here too.
5. Shikhar Dhawan
Just like his aggressive batting style, he's an aggressive runner in football too. Here also he hurries into his shot and ends up missing the ball completely. No ball skills either
5. Ajinkya Rahane
Quick runner but afraid to go in for a tackle. Was only receiving balls that came to him. No risk-taking.
5. Rohit Sharma
No ball skills but thinks innovatively when it comes to intercepting a pass, making him a good defensive option.
5. Umesh Yadav
Good powerful shots and a quick runner. Can be erratic in his passing though, which mirrors his bowling.
4. Ravindra Jadeja
No ball skills but enthusiastic when it comes to running with the ball. Poor kicks too.
4. Ravichandran Ashwin
Hesitant to make tackles and hardly did much with the ball. Too stiff. Below average ball skills.
2. Mohammad Shami
Hardly interested in the game, so simply stood in goal. Did nothing other than retrieving the ball when it went beyond the touchline.
2. Mohit Sharma
No ball skills and not a quick runner either. Can't kick properly but eager to play nevertheless.
2. Axar Patel
Seems never played any football in school or college. No ball skills at all. Cannot even kick the ball properly.
1. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Absolutely uninterested. Simply making short runs to get to the ball, failing to reach and returning back to his position. No ball skills, can't kick the ball either.