There is no dearth of options to have a settled middle-order going into the World T20 next year reckons stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma, who advocated the need to shift from a chop-and-change policy in order provide the youngsters a sense of security.
India’s middle and lower order have proved to be their soft under-belly that has often been exposed when the top order has failed to fire.
Asked if the team has zeroed in on, on this aspect, ahead of the World T20 in Australia, Rohit said, “We have a lot of options.”
“They need to get more games under their belt to be more confident and get the job done. The team, a few years ago, was very much settled so there was not much room for a younger player to come and grab that opportunity,” Rohit said ahead of first Twenty20 against Bangladesh.
“There has always been a chop and change between that number 4, 5, 6 and 7 as well. So now this is the best time for us to try these guys. Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Manish Pandey then Rishabh as well. There are a lot of guys who can do the job.”
However, he acknowledged that the road is tough for the youngsters, trying to find a place in this formidable Indian set up.
“When they play for their IPL team it’s different but when they come here, it is a different ball game. They bat higher for their IPL franchise and that is the challenge in international cricket, you will not get, what you want.
“You have to earn that position and make sure whatever little opportunities you get, you have to make the most of it. In IPL they are guaranteed 15 games but not in international cricket.”
Further explaining India’s preparations for the World T20 next year, Rohit said the team needs to better its performance while batting first.
“We have looked at certain numbers and stats. Our numbers are very good when we chase whether it’s in India or outside. Something we really want to focus is on posting targets and defending them.
“That is where we are lacking, which is why you saw the last T20 we played in Bengaluru, where the pitch was a bit sticky but we still opted to bat. We wanted to try and challenge ourselves as to how we can take that challenge of posting scores on difficult wickets against difficult attacks.
“We want all our bases covered before we go for the World Cup in Australia. This is the perfect time to do that but at the same time, we want to win games. It’s not just about trying. The first priority is to win games and then focus on others.”
Rohit’s philosophy is built on the belief that a captain should not consider himself the most important person in the team as he aims to follow the leadership template set by regular skipper Virat Kohli.
Asked how important it is to prepare well for the fast T20 format, Rohit, who has led Mumbai Indians to four IPL titles, said he loves putting his players at the forefront.
“You need a lot of strategies and planning in T20s, understanding of the players and what they can offer. And that is something that I executed with the Mumbai Indians.”
“How I look at it, is that when you are the captaining the side, you are not such an important person, the other 10 are the most important players because you want to get the best out of them,” Rohit added.
“Of course, your performance will matter but I don’t like to consider myself at the forefront. The other players become the forefront. I have to focus on them and give them the freedom to express themselves and that has been the whole talk about how to want to go forward and what we want to do with this new lot.”
He was also asked to comment on the difference between leadership from a regular captain as he has now often led the Indian side when Kohli is not available.
“My job as a captain here is very simple. I am not a regular captain so my job is to take the team forward from where Virat has left. What I have done in my limited opportunities is trying to maintain what Virat has done previously with the team.
“Whenever I have been a part of the team, it’s been about taking the team forward, whatever messages given to the boys, just to remind the boys what needs to be done.”
Rohit did not appreciate that the Indian team is ranked just five in the T20s.
“We need to get that number higher. We want to be at top in all three formats, that has been the standard we have set and there is no reason we can’t achieve that.
Shivam Dube set for debut?
Rohit also indicated that Mumbai all-rounder Shivam Dube could be handed his international debut against Bangladesh in New Delhi.
While the skipper spoke highly of young Dube and Sanju Samson, he acknowledged the Kerala wicket-keeper’s experience.
Rohit said one of the two players could be seen in the playing XI and the way he backed young wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant, it was clear that most likely it will Dube who will get his India cap.
“We will assess now and probably a bit before the game as well. But both (Sanju and Dube) are definitely in the fray. One of them might definitely play. You might see in playing XI. All doors are open for everyone. Anyone might come into the playing XI any moment,” said Rohit at the pre-match press conference.
Rohit, leading the side in the absence of Virat Kohli who has been rested, backed local boy Pant, an indication that Samson may not figure in the XI.
“We have to back him (Rishabh). He has only played 15-20 T20s. It’s too soon to judge him. There’s still a lot of time left before passing judgement on Rishabh,” he said.
Rohit expressed happiness that the young generation is providing India with a lot of options.
“Sanju is one of them. He has been performing quite well in the domestic circuit and IPL, and Shivam is somebody who has come into the ranks last year. He is somebody who has made his mark just before last year’s IPL auction which is why people were so keen to buy him.”
“There are a lot of new guys in the squad. They have not played a lot of T20 for India and we have to give them opportunities and see what we have before we go for that World Cup in Australia.”
The captain said the conditions will dictate the combination.
“A lot has got to do with how the pitch is going to play. If the pitch is slow, slow bowlers come into the play a lot. If it means we have to play three spinners then we will play three spinners. And if there is grass and we feel there will be some bounce, then we might play with three seamers as well. So everything depends on the conditions,” he said.