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Rahul Dravid backs decision to bowl first: 'You cannot go on past history'

Head coach points out bowling at the end of the game was not easy because of dew, and also showers praise on Axar's improved batting

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
India head coach Rahul Dravid has defended his side's decision to bowl first in the second T20I, by pointing out that there was a lot of dew towards the end of the game and one could not take such decisions only on the basis of historical numbers. Sri Lanka put on 206 for 6 after being put in to bat and India slipped to 57 for 5 before eventually going down by just 16 runs.
Historically, teams batting first have been more successful at the MCA Stadium in all T20s, winning 34 games as opposed to 29 by the chasing teams before Thursday. Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka too pointed that out after losing the toss, saying he was anyway looking to bat first. Dravid, however, said the pitch was good to bat on, and with the dew expected in the second half, it wasn't a bad decision to bowl first.
"The amount of dew there was at the back-end... it's just that we lost a few wickets in the chase," he said at the press conference. "If we had a few wickets in hand, I think we would have… we got close already. But there was a lot of dew.
"You cannot go on past history. It looked like a really good wicket, to be honest, and it stayed a good wicket right through. It did a little bit for the fast bowlers if you pitched it in the right areas with the new ball. But other than that, I thought it was a good wicket. They played well to get to 207 [206], we made some mistakes with the ball. And even though we lost that many wickets, we ran them really close.
"It was not easy in the back-end as you could see they couldn't bowl their spinners out because of the ball being quite wet. I honestly think the decision was fine. If we could have done slightly better in a few areas in the game, we would have got the right result."
That India came so close to the target despite being 57 for 5 in the tenth over was because of Axar Patel. After picking up 2 for 24 from his four overs, he showed his wares with the bat for the second time in two games. With Suryakumar Yadav struggling to accelerate, Axar took the attack to Maheesh Theekshana and Wanindu Hasaranga. He smashed 65 off just 31 balls which included three fours and six sixes to give India hope. Using the long handle, Shivam Mavi too hit 26 off 15 balls towards the end.
While their efforts failed to win the game for India, they did earn the coach's praise.
"I think his [Axar's] batting is coming up leaps and bounds," Dravid said. "We always knew his quality with the ball, and it was just about developing his batting. He is working really hard on it. He has been with the team for more than a year now and it's an area of his game that we have identified. We know that it's important for us to have that.
"In whatever opportunities Axar has got, especially with injuries forcing [Ravindra] Jadeja out of a lot of cricket recently, he hasn't let us down, whether it's Test cricket, one-day cricket, or here. That's really good signs for us, to have people like him, to have people like Washy [Washington Sundar], who unfortunately is not getting a game. He is playing really well, he is batting really well as well. And then obviously, hopefully Jadeja coming back gives us a nice little spin-bowling allrounder area.
"Obviously in the fast-bowling allrounder area, we rely heavily on Hardik [Pandya], and we are looking around for other people to step up and maybe do a job for us. It was nice to see Mavi bat today. That brings a smile to your face when you can see one of your fast bowlers being able to bat like that. But I think in our spin-bowling allrounder, our stocks are pretty good at the moment. Shahbaz [Ahmed] was also part of the squad and considering that Washy is there, and like I said Jadeja as well, we are happy with that."

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo