According to India’s coach, they must provide backup players with playing time before the Asia Cup and World Cup.
Dravid meant that the team is willing to strike a balance between giving players opportunities,
India head coach Rahul Dravid does not want to “make the mistake” of letting the 1-1 ODI series score divert attention away from the “bigger picture” as India prepares for the 2023 World Cup at home from October to November.
Dravid meant that the team is willing to strike a balance between giving players opportunities, even if it means resting seniors like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, and winning without obsessing over short-term results, given that they have less than ten games before their World Cup opener against Australia in Chennai.
“I think we will always look at the bigger picture,” Dravid said after the West Indies leveled the ODI series with a six-wicket victory at Bridgetown on Saturday. “To be honest, with the Asia Cup and World Cup coming up, as well as the injuries we have, we have to look at the big picture at this point in the cycle.” We can’t be concerned about every single game or series. It will be a mistake if we do it.”
Because Rohit and Kohli were rested for the second ODI, Sanju Samson and Axar Patel saw action. Samson will compete with Ishan Kishan for the second wicketkeeper spot, while Axar is mostly considered a backup to Ravindra Jadeja.
Samson only scored nine points, while Axar, who was promoted to No. 4, scored one. They were part of a middle-order collapse that saw India go from 90 without loss to 181 all out. Dravid called it a “challenging wicket,” where 230 would have been par for the course, but he wasn’t concerned about the outcome, instead choosing to see the positives in giving back-up players game time in the event that their regulars, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul, who are currently recovering from injuries at the NCA, don’t make it.
“To be honest, this was our last chance to try out some of our players,” Dravid added. “A few of our players are injured and are at the NCA.” With a month until the Asia Cup, we’re running out of time in a lot of ways. And we’re hoping that some of them will be able to compete in the Asia Cup and World Cup. But we can’t take such chances; we have to try out other guys and give them opportunities so that, in the worst-case scenario, they have game time.
“It gives us the opportunity to make some player decisions.” We just felt that in a series like this, with only two or three matches remaining before the Asia Cup, playing Virat and Rohit would not have provided us with many answers, but with the injuries we have at the NCA and the uncertainty surrounding them, we wanted to give some of the other boys a chance so that if required, they could play.”
Suryakumar figuring out ‘how to bat in middle overs’
Suryakumar Yadav, India’s T20I vice captain, is one of the players who has been given a chance in Iyer’s absence. Suryakumar, known for his 360-degree game in the shortest format, has been unable to repeat that success in the 50-over version.
Suryakumar has blown starts in both games of this series. He was lbw for 19 in the opening ODI while attempting to swipe left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie. In the second ODI, he abandoned the sweep entirely but was out cutting Motie for 24 runs. Suryakumar has averaged just under 24 in 23 ODI innings, with only two half-centuries.
“Look, Surya is a really good player; there’s no doubt about it,” Dravid added. “His performances have demonstrated that, particularly in T20 cricket but also in domestic white-ball cricket.” He has had some outstanding performances. Unfortunately, he’d be the first to confess that his ODI numbers fall short of the high standards he’s set in T20s. He is, however, learning about one-day cricket.
“He played a lot of competitive T20 cricket through the IPL before making his India debut, but he hasn’t played much one-day cricket because there isn’t an IPL in one-day cricket.” So I believe he’s learning as well, trying to figure out how to bat in those middle overs. He’s a gifted player, and we want to give him as many opportunities as we can. It is now up to him to seize those opportunities. But, in our situation, we like to provide individuals as many opportunities as possible.”
Then there’s Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan, whose development in age-group cricket Dravid has seen firsthand after working with them at India Under-19. Gill has yet to get a half-century on tour [in five innings], but Dravid is unconcerned, while also applauding Kishan for seizing every opportunity to stake a claim.
“I wouldn’t worry so much about Shubman,” Dravid said. “He’s batting beautifully and playing extremely well.” He looks fantastic. It occurs with low scores, and you can’t criticize people after each and every game. We needed to struggle and fight our way through the batting conditions. We most likely did not do this throughout the middle overs. But Shubman is hitting well, and he’s now a crucial part of our team in all three forms; maybe he’ll have a strong game in Trinidad.”
Meanwhile, Kishan has been India’s greatest batter in the series so far, scoring 55 and 52 runs in his two innings. However, Kishan will face difficulties, especially if India reverts to their customary top three of Rohit, Gill, and Kohli. In that case, he may have to compete for a middle-order spot, depending on how well Iyer and Rahul recuperate. But for the time being, Dravid is content with what he has seen.
“Ishan has done exceptionally well; this is his third fifty [across formats] in a row.” Again, he seizes opportunities when they present themselves. That is all we ask of young players; we want to give them as many opportunities as possible. We can’t always give everyone a chance; there are other talented men as well.
“We do our best and give as many opportunities as we can.” Virat and Rohit had to sit out today to give others an opportunity. In cases like that, we may have to take those risks and take those chances because, looking at huge tournaments, we need to build some of the players and obtain solutions for specific positions given the situation.”
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