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News

Rohit open to playing three spinners - with or without Hardik

India captain says his spinners have "so much skill" to apply pressure on batters in home conditions

If required, India will not hesitate to field a three-spinner, two-seamer attack, particularly as they await the return of Hardik Pandya. This is what captain Rohit Sharma said on the eve of India's seventh match in the World Cup, in which they have only once played an XI featuring all three of Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, and R Ashwin - against Australia, in Chennai.
But then in their last game, in what was always expected to be a spin-friendly track in Lucknow, India continued to keep Ashwin out of the side, and had Mohammad Shami, Mohammed Siraj, and Jasprit Bumrah in the XI instead.
As it happened the quicks claimed seven wickets between them. But then the spinners only bowled 15 overs in total, as England collapsed to 129 all out inside 35 overs.
"All sorts of combination are possible," Rohit said. "We can still play three spinners and two seamers if need be. In this tournament you've seen that spinners are actually the ones stopping that run flow in the middle overs. I'm keeping my options open whether we have Hardik or not. If the situation demands we play three spinners, we will play three spinners. A lot of skillsets can put a brake on the scoring rate in the middle overs. Our spinners have got so much skill in these conditions."
So far in this World Cup, spinners have been a little more effective at keeping a check on the scoring between overs 15 and 40. Where seam bowlers have conceded 5.97 runs per over during this period, spinners have gone at 5.23 run an over. Seam bowlers have been a little more penetrative during these overs though - their average is 35.69 through this period; the corresponding number for spinners is 39.22.
If there was a thought to resting India's key bowlers ahead of the knockouts, though - particularly when India have a bowler of the quality of Ashwin on the bench - Rohit insisted India's attack remained fresh. The hosts have not quite qualified for the knockouts, but a victory over Sri Lanka would put them in the clear. From there, they would still be keen to finish as high on the table as possible, with the first-placed team set to play fourth place in the semi-final.
"As far as resting for the bowlers is concerned, they are in great rhythm at this point in time," Rohit said. "They don't want to rest. Their bodies are fine. This is the feedback that I've got from all the bowlers. They are happy to play games."
This is despite India having racked up some serious miles through the course of this campaign. Having traveled to practice matches in Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram - two opposite ends of the country, essentially - India have also been to Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune, Dharamsala, Lucknow, and have now arrived in Mumbai. They cover significantly more ground than any other team in the competition. But that's just part of the job, Rohit said.
"We are actually enjoying from one end to the other end - it's nothing new for us," he said.
"And I'm sure all 15 of us - when you travel through India, whether you're playing matches or not, there are people at the airport, in the flight next to you, or anywhere you are traveling, they will talk about your game. 'We want a hundred.' 'We want to see you taking five wickets.' 'We want to see you winning games, tournaments,' and all of that. I don't think it's pressure, but it's nice that people are expecting a lot of things from us."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf