DUBAI: Team India had arrived in Dubai for the Asia Cup to gather the final pieces of their team combination for the upcoming T20 World Cup. They have left with a few more puzzles to solve. The various bilateral series over the last 10 months were meant to alter the brand of cricket they played in the T20 format and bring in fresh faces.
By the time India exited the tournament earlier this week, they were taking a couple of steps back. All the enterprising experiments may culminate in a return to the tried and tested brand of cricket.
The top order was the biggest concern two weeks ago. As it stands, captain Rohit Sharma, vice-captain KL Rahul and Virat Kohli are the only batters to have got a decent amount of deliveries in the middle.
“My role in the team is to take responsibility as per the situation and also take the scoring rate higher. If I can take 10-15 balls to settle down, then I can accelerate. I was going away from my template and desperately trying to do things which are not in my game,” said Virat Kohli during a conversation with Rohit on bcci.tv on Thursday after his century against Afghanistan.
Image credit: BCCI
Kohli’s words are a departure from the aggressive-from-the-start approach the Indian team intended to adopt after the debacle in the T20 World Cup under his leadership last year.
For all the talk around being fearless and carefree, the management has been rather cautious in its approach while building the team. The musical chairs with the middle order and the bowling attack hasn’t really helped. The performers right through the year always knew they had to make way for the established pros.
Ravi Bishnoi and Deepak Hooda, for example, had to fight for their place in the XI. When Bishnoi did get his chance against Pakistan in the first Super 4 game, he finished as the best bowler. Then he was dropped at the expense of Ravichandran Ashwin. Hooda batted at No. 7, where he has barely batted.
The team management is clearly pinning its hopes on the veterans. “Everybody has to wait for his time. Yuzi (Chahal) has been a match-winner for us. We recognize that. We want to give a cushion to the players who have done well even if they have 2-3 bad games.
“We don’t drop or select players on the basis of stats. It’s about the role a person plays in the team. If some new guy performs, it doesn’t mean a player who has been per -forming for two years sits out. That’s where that player loses confidence,” KL Rahul said after the match against Afghanistan on Thursday night.
Kohli has always been prolific in T20Is. Yet, his attempt to go big from the word go came under the scanner. He tried to modify his game and couldn’t. For Team India, the top three, who also happen to be the most accomplished batters, have to be in a comfort zone.
“I told the coaches that I will find the gaps rather than trying to hit big. It is not always that in T20 cricket, to get the strike-rate up, you need to only hit sixes. I got that out of my system and I am back with my template,” Kohli said while praising Rohit and the team management for allowing him that space.
“We shouldn’t ignore KL’s knock as it is important to be in a good head space heading into the World Cup. We all know what he can do. He plays clean, solid shots and once he plays well our team looks stronger,” he added.
It’s now become a case of more game time for India in a format that doesn’t offer any breathing space. The workload management can wait now leading up to the World Cup in Australia.
“There are a couple of series at home. It will be really important to spend time in the middle. Whatever roles we are discussing, we try to challenge ourselves against good teams. For me, (it’s about) getting more games and game time. Only that can make me feel confident about my body and my game,” Rahul said after making his displeasure known about the idea of Kohli replacing him as an opener.
India have six T20I games at home (three each against South Africa and Australia) to fix their issues. As Rahul said, every training session has been done keeping Australia in mind. But he also added a rider: “I don’t think there is a perfect team. I think it’s about how to get a job done. Rohit as a captain always talks about finding a way to get a job done. We will make mistakes and this tournament was a learning for us.”