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Rohit's India willing to try new things, even if they turn out to be mistakes

"We have already got a lot of answers in the last eight to ten months, and this [experimentation] will continue," says the captain

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
India will look to experiment, mix and match combinations, and continue to push boundaries in their build-up to the T20 World Cup later this year. They will also look to give players a fair run of games, even if they are not a certainty in the first XI. This was among the biggest takeaways from Rohit Sharma's pre-match press conference ahead of the team's Asia Cup opener against Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday.
"Look, we've decided we will try things," Rohit said. "Some things may work, some things may not work, but there is no harm in trying. Only if you try things, will you get answers.
"When there is an opportunity to try different combinations, we will try. Along the way, if we make mistakes or face difficulties, we're okay with that. We have spoken about it as a group, and there is nothing to fear.
"We will keep trying to seek new answers. It can be anywhere, be it batting or bowling. We have already got a lot of answers in the last eight to ten months, and this [experimentation] will continue. When the World Cup comes around, we will see what to do and what not to do."
As soon as he finished training on Friday, Rohit made a quick dash to the Dubai International Cricket Stadium to take a look at the surface and check if there was dew. This provided a peek into the level of detailing India are going into, because they are seemingly mindful of what happened at the last year's T20 World Cup, where the toss had a massive impact on the result. Of the last ten T20I in Dubai, nine have been won by the chasing team.
"Yesterday [Friday], we spoke to the curator and told him that the toss should not be a factor, we want to see quality cricket in both innings," Rohit said. "He [said] he will do everything he can to make sure the best cricket is displayed for all of us. We've heard there wasn't any dew yesterday. Luckily, we're playing tomorrow [Sunday] and have a chance to see the game today and see what the conditions will be like.
"To assess conditions, we will be in constant touch with the groundsmen to see if there will be dew. Even if there is, we have played enough here to understand what we need to do as a team or as individuals. We should be prepared to counter what is in front of us."
Rohit was asked about the rivalry between India and Pakistan, and the social media chatter around it. He was also repeatedly asked about last year's World Cup game against Pakistan; India's ten-wicket loss was their first to Pakistan in all World Cups. Rohit said while there were discussions on learning from that defeat, it would have no bearing on Sunday's game.
"The mood is buzzing," he said. "This is a fresh tournament, a new start. We talk about starting fresh and not thinking of what happened in the past. That's how teams move forward. It will be challenging to play Pakistan, without a doubt. What is important is what we are thinking and what we want to achieve. We will focus on that rather than thinking about the opposition. We are here with a purpose, and we want to achieve something from this tournament. Everyone is excited to be here, they want to start the tournament on a high."
One of the key conversations in the India camp in recent times has been around mental health, especially in the wake of Virat Kohli's revelation about how he felt "mentally weak" recently. Kohli has featured in just four T20Is for India this year, having taken breaks at different times. He told Star Sports that he didn't touch the bat for a month before coming to Dubai. Rohit, too, talked about the need to normalise the talk around mental health.
"We do talk about these kinds of things a lot of late," Rohit said. "Since Covid-19 struck, it has been difficult for a lot of players, not just Virat. A lot of players have had hard times mentally. Staying in bubbles and not being able to go outside hotels, some of those guys find it difficult, and there's nothing wrong with it. How you led your life until then was completely different on long tours. With quarantines and all of that, it wasn't easy.
"Every player has a way to respond to it, there isn't anything wrong if a player has his views on that. There is constant talk in our group about how the players are mentally, what they think of the game, and how we can keep them fresh. That freshness is important, especially when you are playing high-profile games. Mentally you should be fresh, otherwise you won't be able to compete, so mental health is very important."
Rohit then proceeded to share his observations of Kohli at training and how he seems "fresher than before". Sunday will be Kohli's 100th T20I. He will be only the second player after Ross Taylor to play that many matches in each format.
"From what I saw, I felt [he is] very good, he is looking in good touch and working hard on his batting," Rohit said. "I didn't feel he is thinking of too many things. He is just like how we saw him earlier. He hasn't made extraordinary changes, but the freshness is there to be seen, given he is coming back after a month. He is in good touch. We focus as a team to give the boys chances to prepare, because preparation is key. We play the way we prepare. The way we have prepared, we have covered all bases."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo