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Dravid: 'We've picked our team for the World Cup and Surya is in it'

India head coach backs middle-order batter's game-changing ability, says he will start ODI series against Australia

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
India strongly back Suryakumar Yadav to bring his game-changing ability to the World Cup despite the slow start to his ODI career. Suryakumar is the No. 1 T20I batter on the ICC rankings, but he hasn't yet found the same gear in ODIs, where his first 25 innings have only brought two fifties and an average of 24.40.
Head coach Rahul Dravid has no doubt, however, of the qualities Suryakumar brings to the table, which he feels could make a significant difference for India from No. 6. He said India had no second thoughts about Suryakumar's place in their World Cup 15 - which they will need to finalise by September 27.
"I don't think he needs to worry about the 27th; we've picked our team for the World Cup and Surya is in it," Dravid said ahead of the first ODI against Australia in Mohali. "We've made that decision and we completely back him because he's got a certain quality and ability that we've seen. Yes, we've seen those qualities at the moment in T20 cricket, but we know the kind of impact a player like him can make batting at six.
"He can change the course of a game, so we've completely backed him. We're very clear about that. There's been total clarity on the fact that we're completely behind him and we know hopefully he'll be able to turn it around."
Suryakumar is presently not part of India's first-choice top six, but Dravid indicated he will be part of the starting XI against Australia, with Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Hardik Pandya rested for the first two ODIs.
"These three games, he is someone who will get all three games, or at least the first couple certainly to be able to again develop and keep growing in his journey as a one-day cricketer, but in terms of selection, no, we've made our decision."
Dravid was also asked about the decision to rest senior players such as Rohit and Kohli ahead of what could be some "tough games" against Australia before India's World Cup campaign officially kicks off with their first warm-up fixture on September 29.
"With people like Virat and Rohit specifically, from our perspective, it's really important that we get them to the first game of the World Cup physically and mentally in the space they want to be in," Dravid explained. "At this level, the amount of cricket that they've played, they know how they need to prepare themselves. A lot of these decisions are made in discussion with them in an effort to try and get… all our players, obviously not only the two of them, but certainly the senior and the more experienced guys kind of have their routines and know what they need to do to get into the first game in the right frame of mind.
"So a lot of these decisions we discuss with them on how best they would like to prepare in the lead up to big events like the World Cup. Based on those discussions, we come up with some mutual decisions on deciding probably these two games were good games to take off, just to refresh mentally more than anything else, and then come back from [the third ODI in] Rajkot, and then it's going to be a tough couple of months ahead of us."
The one other major talking point at the press conference was R Ashwin, who will be auditioning for a spin bowler's berth should the need arise, with Axar Patel nursing a quadriceps strain. Ashwin hasn't played an ODI since January 2022, but Dravid isn't worried; he echoed Rohit's thoughts that an experienced player such as Ashwin doesn't need too much game time to get back into the groove.
"Having someone of Ashwin's experience to come back is always good for us," Dravid said. "Also, he's got the ability to be able to contribute with the bat at No. 8. He's someone who we've always thought of where in case there were certain injuries or opportunities opened up, he was always part of our plans. I know he hasn't played a lot of one-day cricket in the last bit, but someone of his experience can deal with that really well."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo