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News

Rohit: No time to experiment, game time must be given to World Cup probables

For the Indian team, the players must be ready to play roles different to what they have done for their IPL franchises, India captain says

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
15-Feb-2022
"Experimentation is over-rated."
That was Rohit Sharma, the India captain, responding to whether the team will look to give the fringe players a go in the upcoming three T20I series against West Indies in Kolkata.
"I feel the word experimentation is over-rated, in my terms," he said ahead of Wednesday's first T20I. "We are trying to find those holes that are there in the squad and try and fill that gap. So whatever it takes, we will try and do that.
"All these guys [the fringe players] are very young and haven't played a lot of cricket. We need to give them the assurity and the game time. Once we have that, then we can try out things. Till then, whatever little holes we have in our squad, we have to try and fill that."
Among the top priorities while identifying who plays and who doesn't is to judge if the player is going to be part of the T20 World Cup plans.
"The idea is to identify the players who are going to play the World Cup and give them the game time," Rohit said. "There are a lot of players who are injured and not with the team. Come the World Cup, I don't know who's going to be fit and who's not going to be fit, but we've just got to get the back-ups ready. We have a packed schedule and injuries will happen. It's important we give players enough game time keeping everything in mind."
With KL Rahul missing, India will have to field a new opening combination in the series. And with Washington Sundar injured, India will also have a new-look spin attack. Washington's injury has paved the way for Kuldeep Yadav's return to the T20I set-up, so it could mean Kuldeep bowling in tandem with Yuzvendra Chahal like the old days, or a debut for Ravi Bishnoi.
"These two guys have been a great asset in the past for us and will continue to be," Rohit said of Kuldeep and Chahal. "Things should start falling in place for them and it starts with us giving them the confidence. Giving them the support and the backing from the team.
"These guys are wicket-taking options. The captain will expect them to flight the ball and take wickets. It's for them now to get back into the rhythm. Chahal has gotten into his rhythm. Kuldeep will need some time because he was injured. The rhythm of a wristspinner takes some time to come. I am sure he'll start working out about his own bowling very soon."
"We've spoken to guys about what roles they will need to do during the World Cup. That mindset needs to be to bat or bowl in that fashion. The clarity has been given to them"
Rohit Sharma
However, there was more than a subtle hint that the focus would not be on specialists, and that preference would be given to multi-skilled cricketers where possible. "There are so many options for us," Rohit said. "When you are playing the shortest format, you have to look at some who can bat as well. In this format, you are looking at players who can do two-three different things. That is why the other guys get more preference."
While speaking of players who bring in the all-round aspect, Rohit clarified that the team management hadn't discussed the possibility of Hardik Pandya playing as a specialist batter just yet.
"He's a very important player - he brings three skills," Rohit said. "We haven't discussed about him - if he can play as a pure batter. Since the last T20 World Cup, there have been a lot of injuries. Once everyone is available, then we can think about different players. The door is open for everyone. We are not taking decisions yet. We have to look at combinations. There will be different conditions."
Hardik has been rehabilitating from a chronic back condition that hasn't allowed him to be a regular bowler since 2018. He hasn't featured in India's squads since the T20 World Cup last October-November. And after he pulled out of the upcoming Ranji Trophy, there have been murmurs that he might be prioritising white-ball cricket.
Rohit spoke candidly about how players shouldn't be put in boxes based on the roles they play for their IPL franchises, and that when it came to the national team, it is a different ball game altogether.
Consider this: Venkatesh Iyer has had much of his IPL success at the top of the order for Kolkata Knight Riders. It even led to him being picked for the New Zealand T20Is, where he batted in the middle-order. Ishan Kishan bats anywhere between one and six for Mumbai Indians. Now though, it's likely he will be in consideration as an opener, and not a floater.
"There is no consideration of IPL here," Rohit said. "IPL is played for two months, and we play for India for the next ten months. What matters is where they are going to bat for India. What we need here from these guys is very important. We are focusing on that. IPL happens for two months, and we will take care of that later.
"At the moment, we just need to get whatever things we need to sort out, we need to get that right. We need to do that, and this is the time for us to do that. We've spoken to guys about what roles they will need to do during the World Cup. That mindset needs to be to bat or bowl in that fashion. The clarity has been given to them."
Having spoken of roles and specifics to the wider group, Rohit revealed that a clear message had been sent to the players from the team management: "The IPL auction is done and dusted. Focus on the colour blue right now."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo