India’s new T20 International captain Rohit Sharma doesn’t foresee any change in former skipper Virat Kohli’s role as a batter in the new set-up and expects his predecessor to continue dishing out impactful performances.
Kohli has relinquished his T20I captaincy and from Wednesday’s opening T20I against New Zealand, Rohit will be the full-time skipper in the shortest format going into next year’s World Cup.
When asked how he perceives the former captain’s role, Rohit was precise in his reply.
“It’s very simple. Whatever he has been doing till now, his role in this team remains the same,” the Indian captain said ahead of the first T20I against the Black Caps.
“He is a very important player for the team and whenever he plays, he creates an impact. From team’s perspective, he is an important player and when you play each game, the roles are different.”
The roles of each player change as per match conditions and all players, including Kohli, are open to that, insisted the new captain.
“When you are batting first, the role is different compared to when you are batting second. Based on games that we are playing, roles will keep changing and everyone is open to that.”
The kind of experience that Kohli brings into the T20 set-up will only add to their strength, added Rohit.
“I am sure when Virat comes back, it will only strengthen our team because of the experience and the kind of batsman he is, it’s only going to add up to our squad,” he said.
Meanwhile, the team’s new head coach Rahul Dravid said he will focus on finding the right balance when it comes to the players’ workload.
“Workload management is an important aspect of cricket. We see that in football too. The mental and physical well being of players will be a priority. We need to do a balancing act, have to work towards having players fit for the big tournaments,” said Dravid.
“You have to strike a balance... you cannot neglect the long term future of players and their mental health. You have to focus on winning now but you also have to look at the long term effects. Striking a balance is important... that’s my job as a coach.”
Dravid was asked whether we could be looking at different teams for different formats.
“I don’t think we’re at that point where we’re looking at separate teams [for separate formats],” the former India captain said. “Of course, there are certain individuals who only play particular formats and there are some who play all formats. Obviously, in times like this we need to be in a conversation with the players, for me the players’ physical and mental health is the most important thing.”
“I will always be in conversation with them and I’d like to work with them to ensure that whenever they’re playing, we have them fully switched on and we need to recognise that these are challenging times for people, for players, and especially for those guys who are expected to play all formats. We might not be able to play every single player in every single game across formats, we need to accept that as reality,” he added.
Talking about the upcoming T20I series against New Zealand, Dravid said that India have an opportunity to get one back at the Kiwis after their recent loss at the T20 World Cup.
“New Zealand are a very, very good side, make no mistake about it. You don’t need me to say that. It’s almost become fashionable to call them underdogs but that narrative has changed. They have beaten us in big games but therein lies an opportunity for us,” said Dravid.
Rohit added: “We have to focus on every New Zealand player. They had different players who performed during the World Cup. Kane Williamson will be missed by them but they have other match-winning players.”
Rohit also spoke about how India will look to go forward as a team in the shortest format.
“We just need to set the template right, and we have time to do that. India have been good in T20Is but we just haven’t won an ICC tournament... I’m not saying we should follow some other team’s template, we should set our own template,” he said.
Rohit outlined the need for him and Dravid to play crucial roles in allowing individuals to play fearless cricket.
“I think it is an important aspect of the format (T20) where people have that assurance of going in and taking those chances in the middle. If it comes off, it comes off, if it doesn’t then what happens,” Rohit said when asked how he would like to maintain a balance between security and flexibility.
“That’s where both of us will have to play a huge role and huge part in terms of giving that individual an assurance you know going out and expressing himself,” the skipper added.
The focus will be on how players are reacting to a variety of pressure situations.
“Especially, in this format where sometimes, you need to go out there and play fearlessly while doing that there are chances that you might not always be successful. Because it’s such a short format, you are always challenged and the pressure is always there.”
For Rohit, it is important that the individual knows what the team requires of him and doesn’t deviate from the set game-plan.
“I think the entire set-up will play a big part in making sure that particular individual wherever he bats and how we want him to bat goes and does the job for us.”
“If he doesn’t, you still try and instil the confidence in him that we have full faith in you and just go and do the role for the team. As long as they are trying to do the role for the team we are happy,” the five-time IPL-winning captain added.
Rohit added that a template needs to work for India’s strengths.
“I am not going to say that we are going to follow certain team’s template we just have to create our own template and what is best for our team, and what is right for our team.
“Our boys play SMAT and IPL and they play differently for their franchisee, differently for SMAT and when they come here, they play differently, we strictly want to assign the role which they do here matters. for that it can take few games or it can take a while,” he added.
Rohit spoke about giving long rope to players.
“For us, to give them that longer rope and confidence is important to give them that confidence. We are starting afresh after T20 World Cup and we have set some ideas and thoughts, for this particular tournament as of now. Let’s see how it pans out and we will take it from there.”
Rohit said he understand the value that seam bowling all-rounder like Venkatesh Iyer can add to the side but Team India is not just about trying to find a slot for one player with a particular skill-set.
“I think it’s important to groom everyone. I understand the importance of bowling all-rounder but you know, keeping one particular spot in mind is not the way forward,” he said.
“You have to look at entire set-up, the squad that we have and how we can fit in the players and how we can be effective as a team and what is reqd and whoever can do the job for us we will keep an eye on them.”
“It is just not about one or two individuals and keeping an eye on them. It’s about the entire unit and set-up we have. Even people who are playing Mushtaq Ali T20, all those guys as well. Keeping eye on everyone equally is important and whatever is required for us to be a successful team in this particular format, we will try and do that,” he said.
Striking a balance
Dravid admitted he will have to think long-term but also need to focus on ensuring that the team is on winning way.
“You can’t coach different teams in the same way. Certain principles of coaching will never change. But of course the teams that you coach, they come with unique set of challenges, unique set of requirements,” Dravid said.
“You can’t say that everything I did at the under 19 level I will do here. That will not be the way I would go about things. For me as well it is an opportunity learn and get to know the players.
“Your responsibility as a support staff is to mould yourself to be able to get the best out of the players and that’s my philosophy,” said Dravid, who has also worked on the younger generation as the Under19 coach at a World Cup, India A coach and then NCA chief.
“You have to strike that balance,” said Dravid when asked about the long term and short-term goals.
“Of course, we will have to win every single game that we play for India, but you cannot not think about the longer term picture as well. Even in terms of the bubble fatigue or the situation we are in now.
“You know we will think about the players long term careers and futures as well and keep that in mind and not prioritise their well being at any stage over, for sort of short term results.”
Inputs from PTI
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