Indian men’s cricket team head coach Rahul Dravid made it clear that Rishabh Pant was an integral part of the batting line-up despite his struggles in the recent T20I series against South Africa and added that Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya provide the kind of flourish the team needs in the final overs, as he looked ahead to the year’s T20 World cup.
Speaking after India and South Africa’s final T20I was washed out in Bengaluru with the series ending 2-2, Dravid spoke about Pant’s captaincy and batting, what Dinesh Karthik brings to the table, backing the likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shreyas Iyer, and plans for T20 World Cup and more.
Excerpts from the press conference:
Assessment of Rishabh pant, the captain
I thought it was good. To bring a team back from 0-2 down and to level it at 2-2 and give us a chance to win was good. Captaincy is not about wins and losses only. He is a young captain, growing as leader, getting more and more chances. It is too early to judge him and you don’t want to do that after one series. It was nice to see he has got opportunities to lead, keep as well and bat. He had a lot of load on him but gaining from that experience, but credit to him for ensuring that we went from 0-2 down to 2-2.
On Rishabh Pant’s batting
When you’re asking people to play a slightly more attacking brand of cricket in the middle overs and to take the game on a little bit more, sometimes it’s hard to judge based on two or three games.
I thought he had a pretty good IPL. He might not have looked good on the averages, but his strike rate was really good. He looked to move that up a little bit, which he was probably at three years ago. We’re going to hope that we can get those kinds of numbers from him at the international level as well. In that process, he might go wrong in a few games.
But of course he remains an integral part of our batting line-up. We know what he does with the power he has. The fact that he is a left-hander is very important to us as well in the middle overs. And he has played some good knocks. Of course, personally, he would have liked to have scored a few more runs but it’s not that concerning. For us, he is certainly a very big part of our plans going ahead in the next few months.
Rishabh Pant overs the years in IPL
Thoughts on Dinesh Karthik’s comeback
He was picked for a very specific skill, for what he was doing exceptionally well over the last few years. And it’s nice when that’s kind of indicated in a sense that it came together brilliantly for us in that Rajkot game, where we needed that big performance in the last five overs to be able to make a par score.
He and Hardik [Pandya] batted beautifully for us; both of them are our enforcers at the end, guys who can capitalise on those last five-six overs. They are probably two of the best in the world in those last five-six overs. So, yeah, it was really nice to see Karthik come off and do what he has been picked to do. It certainly opens up a lot more options for us going forward. Like I was telling the guys it’s not about knocking the door, you have to start banging the door down, and an innings like that certainly means he is knocking very hard.
Playing the T20 World Cup in Australia
Lot of our boys have played in Australia and we certainly will be having conversations with them on what kind of tactics and strategies work. Closer to that we will speak to the experienced guys in our group, probably giving us a little bit time to prepare for a couple of weeks.
In terms of data and analysis, we will look at all games being played in Australia and obviously there are international games, also there is Big Bash and I mean we will do all our research and background things that happens in terms of analysis. And of course, we don’t have a series against them (Australia in Australia), so we can’t change that. I guess we have to make do with two weeks we have in the lead up to the World Cup and make best use of it.
Test match in England
Going to be exciting. For us it’s a one-off Test match, but there are also World Test Championship points. Series on the line for the guys who played a part in it last time around.
England are playing well at the moment and it is going to be a bit different from last year when England were probably a little bit on backfoot. They have played some good games and we have a pretty good side as well. Loved playing Test cricket, love watching it and love coaching in Test cricket and so you know, looking forward to it.
In terms of World Cup preparations, what is your assessment regarding Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shreyas Iyer?
We are not going to make knee-jerk reactions on people like that. As you have seen, I don’t like judging people after one series, or one game. Every one of the guys who got the opportunity here truly deserved the opportunity; they have earned it. And in this format of the game, you’re going to have some good games and some bad games.
I think Shreyas, in the early part on a couple of tricky wickets, showed a lot of intent and played really positively for us. Ruturaj showed in one particular innings what quality and skill he has got. In T20, you can have the odd games where your form and performance goes up and down a little bit.
So, yeah, we are not very disappointed with anyone. As a group, we were looking to play a slightly more positive and attacking brand of cricket right from the beginning. And we knew you when you’re trying to do that, at times, it’s not always going to come off. But what we are certainly clear about the kind of cricket we want to play.
Finalising plans for World Cup with a core team.
As you come closer and closer to the event, you want to firm up your final squad or if not, obviously you want to have some contingencies in the kind of world we live in today. Obviously you can take only 15 to the WC but we need to ensure to identify top 18 to 20 players.
Obviously, there could be odd changes due to injury and things that are beyond your control but we are going to start looking to firm up that squad as quickly as possible. Whether that will happen in next series or series after that is hard to tell but we are certainly looking to do that as quickly as possible.