DUBAI: An interesting thing happened during the team huddle before India started with their warm-ups, around an hour before the match against Pakistan here on Sunday.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik, the oldest player in the team, was asked to address the team first. Former captain Virat Kohli followed with a few words before incumbent skipper Rohit Sharma finished the pep-talk session, which was moderated by head coach Rahul Dravid. Dravid had joined the team in the early hours of Sunday, flowing in late after having recovered from Covid-19.
Thirty minutes later, Rohit announced at the toss that Karthik had been preferred ahead of Rishabh Pant, the more regular stumper and current toast of Indian cricket. The decision came as a surprise to many.
For Pant, it may be a moment of déjà vu, seeing how he had initially missed out on a spot in India’s 2019 World Cup team. That time too, the selectors and team management had preferred the experience of Karthik.
This is the first time since the T20 World Cup last year here in Dubai that a near-full-strength Indian team took the field. The only one missing was Jasprit Bumrah. This Asia Cup has been touted as a platform for Dravid and Rohit Sharma to crack their combination going into the T20 World Cup in less than a couple of months.
If Sunday’s decision is any indication, it appears the team management finds the utility of Karthik in the last four overs of an innings more valuable. Pant, in all fairness, hasn’t had the same impact in T20s as he has had in the other two formats. The move to pick Karthik, however, means the top order will be without a left-hander, with Ravindra Jadeja playing more of a finisher’s role.
“Dinesh has done really well of late. Even before he was dropped, he had played a few crucial knocks for us. Since he has come back, we wanted him to play a certain role and he has not disappointed us so far,” Rohit had said on the eve of the match.
Yet, the playing XI has an underlining disclaimer. India are not yet done with the experimentation. “Look, we’ve decided we will try things. Some may work and some won’t, but there’s no harm in trying. We have no issues with that,” Rohit said about his plans on Saturday.
“Only if you try things will you get answers. When there is an opportunity to try different combinations, we will try. As far as combinations go, our team has decided we will keep trying and along the way if we make mistakes or face difficulties, we’re okay with that.”
Rohit also mentioned that the entire team was brought on the same page and that each player in the squad of 15 is good enough to be part of the XI.
“We have spoken about it as a group, there is nothing to fear. We will keep trying to seek new answers, it can be anywhere, with our batting, our bowling. We’ve already got a lot of answers in the last 8-10 months, this will continue. When the World Cup comes, we’ll see what to do and what not to do,” he claimed.