Rohit Sharma on newcomers: 'You tell them to take their chances, and if it doesn't come off, you still back them'

"Going forward, we will definitely keep an eye out for him," India's T20 captain says of Venkatesh Iyer

Sreshth Shah
Sreshth Shah
Rohit on Venkatesh Iyer - "We've given him a role to bat at No. 5, 6 or 7, and see if he can do the job for us"  •  Getty Images

Rohit on Venkatesh Iyer - "We've given him a role to bat at No. 5, 6 or 7, and see if he can do the job for us"  •  Getty Images

With the 2022 T20 World Cup just 11 months away, India's captain for the format, Rohit Sharma, wants the new players who featured in the team's 3-0 series win over New Zealand to be given a long run to express themselves.
Speaking to the media after sealing the series sweep in Kolkata on Sunday, Rohit pointed to India's huge pool of talented cricketers and said that with so many of them making a case for selection in the Indian T20 team, the onus was on him and head coach Rahul Dravid to create that sense of security among the players.
"When you're playing bilaterals, you need to tick certain boxes, and we are trying to do that," Rohit said. "We are trying to create a healthy atmosphere, giving the younger players security so that players can go out and play fearlessly.
"In the first meeting that we had, we spoke about this very clearly. Told them that 'if you're trying to do something for the team, that act will never get unnoticed; you will be noticed when you raise your hand and try to take pressure on yourself and try to do something for the team'. That's the job of the captain and coach. To tell the players that 'we do understand what you're trying to do for the team'.
"You tell them to take their chances, and if it doesn't come off, you still back them because we know what they are trying to do for the team."
India fielded a fairly inexperienced squad for the series, with the previously uncapped Harshal Patel and Venkatesh Iyer making their international debuts, and Axar Patel - who had played just one T20I in four years coming into the series - getting a run in Ravindra Jadeja's absence. However, there was no place for Ruturaj Gaikwad and Avesh Khan in any of the games.
"Seeing the talent pool of India, it is not easy," Rohit said. "Most of the guys sitting outside have also done very well. It's not easy, only 11 can play, we know that. It's always tough, but we will try our best that whenever our players step out, they do not have any baggage."
'Batting down the order will be tough for Venkatesh Iyer'
Rohit was also clear on what role was being considered for Venkatesh Iyer, the breakout star from the UAE leg of the 2021 IPL. Although he has been opening for Kolkata Knight Riders, the management wants him to find a place between Nos. 5 and 7 for India.
Rohit said the team acknowledged that changing batting positions so drastically could be tough on the newcomer, his skills as a medium-pace bowler made him a tempting option.
"The plan is to keep Iyer in the mix as much as we can," Rohit said. "At the same time, we need to give him a role to bat where he usually doesn't bat for his franchise. It's going to be slightly tough for him to bat down the order. We've given him a role to bat at No. 5, 6 or 7 and see if he can do the job for us.
"Today, he looked composed, he was clear in his mindset, and he has a very good approach. And you saw his bowling skills, looks a very, very bright prospect for us. He can get the job done for us, it's about giving him the confidence and making him play as much as he can. It's still very early days - been just three games. He's not had much of an opportunity to make an impact but going forward, we will definitely keep an eye out for him.
"The more depth we have the better it is for us. But for now, the way our bowling is going, and the way we have bowled, you don't need a sixth or seventh bowler if the five players bowl well. But as a captain, it's a good cushion to have."
'Fielding, bowling biggest positives'
Looking back at the series win, Rohit said that there were two standout positives for India. First, the fielding, which saved them around 15 runs each in the first two games, and secondly, how they managed to restrict New Zealand in the first two games despite being put on the back foot early on.
In Jaipur, India took five wickets for 68 runs in the last eight overs to keep New Zealand down to 164 and in Ranchi, New Zealand managed to score only 153 despite a 64-run powerplay. In Kolkata, too, New Zealand's batters were stymied by a varied bowling attack that bowled them out for 111 batting second in dewy conditions.
Much of the praise from Rohit went to the spin duo of Axar and R Ashwin. "I think it's been a great comeback for Ashwin," Rohit said. "He has proved himself with the red ball and even with the white ball, he doesn't have a bad record. It shows the quality that he has. He is always an attacking option for the captain - when he is there, the captain has the opportunity to take wickets in the middle overs. And we know how important middle overs are - you need to take wickets there.
"Along with Axar, both of these guys are wicket-taking options, and when they bowl, it's never about surviving for them. It's about 'how I can get the batter out, or how I can put pressure on the batter'."

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx