DUBAI: Team India had arrived in Dubai for the Asian Cup to gather the last pieces of their team suit for the next T20 World Cup. They left with a few more puzzles to solve. The various bilateral series over the last 10 months were aimed at changing the brand of cricket they played in the T20 format and bringing in new faces.
By the time India exited the tournament earlier this week, they were taking a few steps back. All enterprising experiments can result in a return to the proven brand of cricket.
The largest order was the biggest concern two weeks ago. As things stand, Captain Rohit Sharma, vice-captain KL Rahul and Virat Kohli are the only hitters to get a decent number of deliveries in the middle.
“My role in the team is to take responsibility for the situation and also increase the scoring rate. If I can take 10 to 15 balls to set up, then I can step up. I was moving away from my model and I was desperately trying to do things that are not in my game,” Virat Kohli said in a chat with Rohit on bcci.tv Thursday after his century against Afghanistan.
Image credit: BCCI
Kohli’s words deviate from the aggressive approach from the start that the Indian team intended to take after the T20 World Cup debacle under his stewardship last year.
Despite all the talk of fearlessness and recklessness, management has been rather cautious in their approach when building the team. The musical chairs with the middle order and the bowling attack didn’t really help. Artists throughout 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 had his chance against Pakistan in the first game of Super 4, he finished top bowler. Then he was dropped at the expense of Ravichandran Ashwin. Hooda hit at No. 7, where he barely hit.
The team’s management clearly places its hopes in the veterans. “Everyone has to bide their time. Yuzi (Chahal) was a game-winner for us. We recognize that. We want to give a cushion to players who played well even though they have 2-3 bad games.
“We don’t drop or select players based on stats. It’s about the role a person plays in the team. If a new player plays, it doesn’t mean that a player who played for two years is out. This is where this player loses confidence,” KL Rahul said after the game against Afghanistan on Thursday night.
Kohli has always been prolific in T20I. Yet his attempt to go big from the get-go went 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 hitters, have to be in a comfort zone.
“I told the coaches that I would find the gaps rather than try to hit big. It’s not always that in T20 cricket, to increase the strike rate, you just have to hit six. I got it out of my system and I’m back with my model,” Kohli said while praising Rohit and team management for giving him that space.
“We shouldn’t ignore KL’s shot because it’s important to be in a good headspace before the World Cup. We all know what he can do. He plays clean, solid shots and once he’s done it. he’s playing well, our team looks stronger,” he added.
It has now become a case of more playing time for India in a format that offers no respite. Workload management can now wait until the World Cup in Australia.
“There are a few series at home. It will be really important to spend time in the middle. Whatever roles we discuss, we try to challenge ourselves against good teams. For me, (it’s) about getting more games and playing time. Only that can give me confidence in my body and my game,” Rahul said after expressing his displeasure that Kohli replaces him as opener.
India have six home T20I games (three against South Africa and Australia) to solve their problems. As Rahul said, every training session was done with Australia in mind. But he also added a driver: “I don’t think there is a perfect team. I think it’s about knowing how to do a job. Rohit, as captain, always talks about finding a way to get a job done. We will make mistakes and this tournament has been a learning curve for us.