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News

Rahul Dravid hints that India won't make many changes against Netherlands

India's coach praised the contributions of the middle order, and was also pleased with how the team coped with Hardik Pandya's absence

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
11-Nov-2023
Rahul Dravid was pleased with how India's campaign progressed after losing Hardik Pandya to injury  •  ICC via Getty Images

Rahul Dravid was pleased with how India's campaign progressed after losing Hardik Pandya to injury  •  ICC via Getty Images

Rahul Dravid, the India coach, has all but ruled out the possibility of making wholesale changes to the XI for their final World Cup league game against Netherlands, even though they are guaranteed to finish on top of the points table. India have played the same XI for their previous four games, the last of which was against South Africa on November 5.
"I mean, honestly, we've had six days off from the last game," Dravid said on the eve of the match in Bengaluru. "So, we're pretty well rested. We've got one game before the semi-final and the guys are in good shape. That's all I'll say without giving away much."
Dravid was asked whether someone like Prasidh Krishna, an injury replacement for Hardik Pandya, could get a chance just to have him ready in case he's needed in a knockout game.
"So now at this stage, it's about just focusing on getting the guys who you think are going to be playing in the XI in the best possible space mentally and physically, to be able to play that semi-final and, hopefully, the final if we earn it," he said. "So that will be the single-pointed thinking. There are times for larger-picture thinking and there are times for narrow-focus thinking in my opinion and now's the time for narrow-focus thinking if everyone is fit."
Dravid went to great lengths to underline the efforts of India's middle order, considering two of the three players - Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul - were on the mend from serious injuries and missed much of India's run-up to the World Cup.
"Yeah, it's terrific," Dravid said. "I answered this question if I remember in Chennai. I said middle orders are going to be very, very important in a tournament like this. How well your middle order performs in, sometimes, very tricky conditions and challenging situations under pressure is actually going to probably decide how well you do.
"While our top order also performed exceptionally well, I think our middle order has played very critical roles. Sometimes you can't judge them by sheer numbers. It's obvious that when you look at a leaderboard of scores and runs, it'll always be someone in the top three. I mean, it's pretty obvious. You look at that whole board and it's all filled with guys from any country who are in the top three.
"That only gives you one half of the picture, but it's actually some of those 30s, 40s, [that are] critical knocks. I can look back on this whole campaign and look at the contributions of our middle order and they'll come only in sort of spurts, or one knock here, or two knocks there, and somebody done something there, or a Shreyas, or a KL, or a Surya's knock here, and Jaddu's [Ravindra Jadeja] important knock in Dharamsala.
"And you can look at a lot of these small, small things, and actually that's what really gives you those ticks, or gives you those wins at the end of the day. So, it's a combination of things. And touch wood, our middle order has been truly exceptional in this tournament."
Dravid was also pleased with the "systems" and "processes" India have put in place at the World Cup, especially for contingencies, like the plan they adopted after Hardik Pandya's injury. Until then, India were playing with another allrounder - Shardul Thakur or R Ashwin - at No. 8 for batting depth.
Following Hardik's injury, India started playing with only five bowlers and they haven't missed the sixth option, with Mohammed Shami coming into the team and completing a formidable attack comprising Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav.
"I think when you're playing big tournaments like this, you want your best players playing. Unfortunately, at the T20 World Cup [last year], we probably didn't have a little bit of that luck, especially when you lose players like Bumrah and Jaddu. At the World Test Championship, we missed a couple of guys. Even here, to be honest, we have missed a couple of guys, one before the tournament and one during the tournament. But we've been able to respond really well so far. And I think that's been, again, something I'm very proud of.
"We had a balance. We've structured the whole thing around certain things. But when that hasn't happened, we've had the ability, the skill, and the mental fortitude to be able to bounce back, and to be able to still compete and do really well. So yeah, I think credit to the guys, credit to, like I said, I think even the NCA for all the work that they do.
"A lot of the stuff is behind the scenes. People don't get to see it. People don't see it. It's not easy. Sometimes people think, oh, it's easy to get injured players playing. Again, it's not that simple. You know, it's easy to get people playing when you have an injury in normal life and getting back on the park and getting back to normal office work is easy, but getting people back to professional sport is not easy. So well done to everyone so far."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo