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Dravid looking at 'bigger picture', not worried about ODI loss

India coach says they have to give back-up players game time before the Asia Cup and World Cup

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
India head coach Rahul Dravid doesn't want to "make the mistake" of letting the ODI series scoreline of 1-1 take the focus away from looking at the "bigger picture" as India build towards the 2023 World Cup at home this October-November.
Dravid meant the team is willing to strike a balance between providing opportunities to players, even if it means resting seniors like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, and winning while not obsessing over short-term results, given there are fewer than 10 games left before their World Cup opener against Australia in Chennai.
"I think we will always look at the bigger picture," Dravid said after West Indies levelled the ODI series with a six-wicket win in Bridgetown on Saturday. "To be honest, at this stage in the cycle with the Asia Cup and World Cup coming up, and with the injuries we have, we have to look at the bigger picture. We can't worry about every single game, every single series. If we do that, it will be a mistake."
Resting Rohit and Kohli for the second ODI meant game time for Sanju Samson and Axar Patel. Samson will be tussling with Ishan Kishan for the second wicketkeeper's slot, while Axar is largely seen as a like-for-like back-up to Ravindra Jadeja.
Samson managed just 9, while Axar, promoted to No. 4, scored 1. They were part of a middle-order meltdown that led to India floundering from 90 without loss to 181 all out. Dravid labeled it a "challenging wicket" where 230 would have been par for the course, but wasn't fretting over the result, instead choosing to draw positives from giving back-up players game time in the wake of a scenario where their regulars - Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul - currently recuperating from injuries at the NCA don't make it.
"Honestly, this was our last chance to be able to try out some of our players," Dravid said. "We have got few of our players who are injured and are at the NCA. With a month to go for the Asia Cup, we are kind of running out of time in a lot of ways. And we're hopeful some of them will be fit for the Asia Cup and World Cup. But we can't take those chances; we have to try out other people and give them chances so that, in a worst-case scenario, they have game time behind them.
"It gives us an opportunity to make some decisions on players. We just felt in a series like this, with just two-three matches to go before the Asia Cup, playing Virat and Rohit honestly would not have given us too many answers, but with the injuries we have at the NCA and the uncertainty around them, we wanted to give some of the other boys a chance so that if required they can play."

Suryakumar figuring out 'how to bat in middle overs'

One of the players who has been given a run in Iyer's absence is Suryakumar Yadav, who is currently India's T20I vice-captain. Renowned for his 360-degree game in the shortest format, Suryakumar hasn't been able to replicate the same success in the 50-overs format.
In both games in this series, Suryakumar has thrown away starts. In the first ODI, he was lbw for 19 trying to sweep left-arm spinner Gudakesh Motie. In the second ODI, he shelved the sweep completely, but was out cutting Motie for 24. In all, Suryakumar averages a shade under 24 after 23 ODI innings with just two half-centuries.
"Look, Surya is a really good player, there's no doubt about it," Dravid said. "His performances have shown that, especially in T20 cricket, even in domestic white-ball cricket. He has some very good performances. Unfortunately, he'd be the first one to admit his ODI numbers aren't up to his high standards he's set in T20s. But he's also learning about one-day cricket.
"He's played a lot of competitive T20 cricket through the IPL before he made his India debut, but in terms of one-day cricket he hasn't played that much, there's no IPL in one-day cricket. So I think he's also learning, trying to figure out how to bat in those middle overs. He's a talent, he's a really good player, we want to give him as many opportunities as we can. Upto him now to take those opportunities and use them. But yeah, in the kind of set-up we are, we like to give people as many chances we possibly can."
Then there are Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan, whose developments from age-group cricket Dravid has been privy to having worked with them at India Under-19. Gill is yet to hit a half-century on tour [across five innings] but Dravid isn't concerned, while also being pleased for Kishan taking every opportunity he's getting to stake a claim.
"I wouldn't worry so much about Shubman," Dravid stated. "He's batting beautifully, he's playing really well. He looks really good. It happens [low scores], you can't criticise people after every single game. It's not easy batting conditions, we needed to grind and fight it out there. We probably didn't do that through the middle overs. But Shubman is batting well, he's an important part of all three formats for us now, hopefully he'll have a good game in Trinidad."
Kishan, meanwhile, has been India's best batter in the series so far, scoring 55 and 52 in his two outings so far. However, Kishan's challenges will come especially when India revert to their regular top three of Rohit, Gill and Kohli. In such a scenario, he will possibly have to jostle for a middle-order slot, depending on how well Iyer and Rahul recover. For now, though, Dravid is happy with what he has seen.
"Ishan has done really well, this is his third fifty in a row now [across formats]. Again, he's taking opportunities when given the chance. That's all we ask from young players, we want to give them as many chances as we possibly can. We can't give everyone a chance all the time, there are other talented guys as well.
"We try our best and give as many chances as we can. Today, to give people chances, Virat and Rohit had to sit out. Sometimes we might have to take those risks, take those chances in situations like that because looking at big tournaments, we need to build some of the players, get answers for specific positions considering the situation we are in."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo