Dubai: Staring an early exit from the Asia Cup, the Indian team is facing some flak for a below-par show but skipper Rohit Sharma insists that the team combination is more or less settled going into the T20 World Cup, though, they are still looking for some “answers”.
The absence of an indisposed Avesh Khan and Ravindra Jadeja, who underwent knee surgery, meant that India competed with only two frontline seamers — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh — with Hardik Pandya being the third fast-medium option.
Lack of enough sting in its bowling attack meant that the team suffered back-to-back Super 4 defeats against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, failing to defend par-scores of 181 and 173 respectively.
“It’s 90-95% settled, just a few changes that will happen,” Rohit said of the team combination after a humiliating defeat against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
The skipper added that he wanted to experiment a bit in the Asia Cup and see what happens when four specialist bowlers are used.
“When you talk about experiments, yes, we wanted to try out certain things. If you look at the combination we have been playing before the start of the Asia Cup, it was with four seamers, two spinners and the second spinner was an all-rounder.
“I always wanted to try and find answers as to what happens if you play with three seamers and two spinners, and the third spinner being an all-rounder. We are still looking for answers,” he explained.
It was done specifically to check if Hardik could fit in as the third seamer. “I want to be prepared for the World Cup where you are challenged as a team. When you go to the World Cup, you want to have all the answers. Since Hardik Pandya has come back, we have played with 3 seamers.
“It’s good to know what can happen when you play with three seamers, two spinners … These defeats teach us a whole lot of things,” he added.
Still looking for some answers
While Rohit said that 95 percent of the team is settled, he contradicted himself when he said that a lot of answers are yet to be found.
“There are a lot of questions we need to answer, and along the way, in the three-four series we’ve played, we have found some answers.
“There will be a time where we will draw a line and say, ‘this is the combination we want to play for the World Cup.’ After this, we have two more series and then the World Cup. Till our squad is announced, we can try out a few players.”
Hooda picked ahead of DK and not given bowling
A pertinent question was why Deepak Hooda was sent in at No. 7 and not given even a single over to bowl his off-breaks.
“Yes, we have a sixth bowling option, but we also wanted to try out with five options and see what happens and what doesn’t happen,” Rohit said in his defence.
“Today Hooda was there, but both their right-handers (openers) were set, and I didn’t think I could bring him on then because we were looking to take wickets through our attacking spinners Ashwin and Chahal,” Rohit referred to the 97-run opening stand between Pathum Missanka and Kusal Mendis.
“If we had got early wickets, I wanted to bowl Hooda, he was in my plan. But yes, sixth options is always nice. When we play the World Cup it will be at the back of our mind to play with six options.”
DK is missing out due to left-right combination
Rishabh Pant has flattered to deceive in the chances he has got to bat but skipper Rohit said that Dinesh Karthik’s absence from the playing eleven is purely strategical.
“See, it is simple. We wanted a left-hander to bat in the middle. That’s why Dinesh Karthik is out. Not because of form or anything. We wanted a left-hand batter in the middle to take pressure off, but it didn’t happen.
“But by no means DK has been dropped because of poor form. We always want to have flexibility in the group.” Rohit did not forget to mention some experiments will continue going into the Australia and South Africa series at home.
“We will keep changing players every now and then depending on the opposition. Four-five batters will play, but there will always be those one-two changes in the batting.”
Nothing wrong and atmosphere is good
Not making it to the finals of the Asia Cup would certainly lead to dissection but Rohit put his foot down and asserted that there is nothing wrong with the team or the way they are playing currently.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong, it looks like it from the outside, but we don’t look at it that way,” Rohit repeated what his predecessor Virat Kohli would oft repeat at the press conferences.
“I’ve been at many press conferences, and when you lose such questions will be asked. It’s normal. But as far as the team is concerned you can go in [the dressing room] and see, all the boys are relaxed and chilled. We need to have such an atmosphere whether you win or lose.” Rohit feels that a lot of work has gone into making the dressing room atmosphere as good as it is now.
“We’ve worked hard to make the team atmosphere that way and all the boys are happy about it. If the dressing room mood is good, eventually the performances you see will happen on the ground.
“Before the World Cup, it’s important for us to keep the atmosphere good and not judge the boys by wins or losses, performances and non-performances. Because whoever is here, they’re all good. That thought we need to be consistent with,” he concluded.