VVS Laxman, India’s stand-in head coach in place of Rahul Dravid for the New Zealand tour, said on Thursday that the aim is to use specialist players during the upcoming three-match T20I series.

India suffered a 10-wicket defeat in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup semifinal against eventual champions England, with the team facing criticism for erring in its approach among other things.

India tour of NZ: Hardik Pandya on coping with T20 WC loss, giving chances to youngsters and more

In a press conference ahead of the first T20I against New Zealand in Wellington, Laxman said the need of the hour is multi-dimensional cricketers.

“In white ball cricket, you need specialist players and going forward, in T20 cricket, you will see a lot more T20 specialists. T20 cricket has shown us over the years that you need multi-dimensional cricketers,” said Laxman, who is the current head of India’s National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru.

“We have bowlers who can bat and batters who can bowl. More number of bowlers who can bat allows the team to have depth and batters to have freedom to go out and express themselves. I think that’s the need of the hour and more and more teams will get that into their selection process and identify multi-dimensional players.”

He added: “T20 cricket requires to play with a lot of freedom and clarity of thought and whatever time I have spent with these players and watch them grow in international cricket, that is their strength. It is important to play with that freedom but also you need to assess conditions and fulfill the needs of the team.”

The 48-year-old also said that he wants the top order to bat fearlessly in the T20I series against New Zealand.

“We have a top order that has the capability to bat fearlessly. My message to the top order is to bat fearlessly and express yourself but also change your strategy as per game situation. Yes we don’t have KL, Rohit and Virat here but (those) who are here are also experienced enough players,” he said.

Hardik Pandya will be leading the Indian T20I side in New Zealand, with senior players like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin, Dinesh Karthik and KL Rahul being rested.

Laxman hailed Pandya for his leadership skills and said the 29-year-old all-rounder has the support of the entire squad.

“He (Pandya) is a fabulous leader you know. Obviously, what he has done for Gujarat Titans in his first year of captaincy, winning the IPL isn’t a mean achievement and I have spent time with him from the Ireland series and not only is he tactically good, but also very calm and that is something very important when you play at the highest level,” said Laxman.

“There will be situations when you will be under pressure and there you will require to be calm. But also his presence in the dressing room and his work ethic is exemplary. Hardik is a players’ captain and is approachable and all the players go and confide in him.”

Laxman also reflected on his approach as a coach and the significance of data analysis in modern day cricket.

“I don’t see any challenges as such. Even as a player when I became a senior, the mindset was all about sharing my knowledge and making sure I am very honest with whatever conversations I have with the players. Same with this short stint,” said Laxman.

“It (data analysis) has played a huge part in the evolution of the game. When you have so much data available you can have strategies against a player whom you haven’t played earlier. But it’s also about executing the plans we have. Analytics is very important and getting the data, breaking it down and using it is something we will be doing going forward. And we are in good position to strategize against any player irrespective of whether we have played against them or played with them.”

Schedule for India's tour of New Zealand 2022

Day   Date   Match   Venue  
Friday   18th November   1st T20I   Sky Stadium, Wellington  
Sunday   20th November   2nd T20I   Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui  
Tuesday   22nd November   3rd T20I   McLean Park, Napier  
Friday   25th November   1st ODI   Eden Park, Auckland  
Sunday   27th November   2nd ODI   Seddon Park, Hamilton  
Wednesday   30th November   3rd ODI   Hagley Oval, Christchurch

India’s squads:

T20I series: Hardik Pandya (C), Rishabh Pant (vc & wk), Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Surya Kumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson (wk), W Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Mohd. Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umran Malik.

ODI series: Shikhar Dhawan (C), Rishabh Pant (vc & wk), Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda, Surya Kumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson (wk), W Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Shahbaz Ahmed, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Deepak Chahar, Kuldeep Sen, Umran Malik.