Opportunities galore as India's T20 experiments continue : Rohit sharma
Ever wondered how Virat Kohli's absence from the Indian side could be a good thing? With the India captain rested for the T20I series against Bangladesh, it not only opens up a slot but also gives the management a chance to test a number of players. On the eve of the game, Rohit Sharma stressed how important it is to play international games before the T20 WC next year, and how tough it is for the players to establish themselves with limited opportunities available.
India can have KL Rahul batting at number three, giving him game-time before Kohli returns. To put things in perspective, Shikhar Dhawan's form in 2019 hasn't been great with 181 runs from nine games at a strike rate of 112.42. So, if the think-tank decides to move on from the left-hander and goes back to Rahul, he'll have game-time under his belt and won't be starting fresh. Or if they want to keep Rahul as back-up opener, then another opportunity opens up to try both Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer in the playing XI. Iyer is more than capable of batting at No. 3 and Pandey can be at five with Rishabh Pant being the middle-overs enforcer at No. 4.
"We have a number of options but they just need to get a game under their belt to be more confident to go out there and get the job done," Rohit said ahead of the first T20I in Delhi. "The team a few months ago was very settled and there was no room for a young player to come and have an opportunity. There was always chop and change between No. 4, 5, 6 and 7 as well. Now, this is the best time for us to try Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Manish Pandey and Rishabh as well.
"There are a lot of guys who can get that job done. When they play for their IPL team, it's a different ball game. When they come here, it's a different ball game. They bat higher in their IPL teams and that's the challenge of international cricket. You will not always get what you want. You have to earn that position. You have to make sure whatever limited opportunities you get, you have to get the job done.
"When they play for their IPL franchise, they know they'll play all 14 game, so they know how they need to bat and what they need to do. When it comes to international cricket, there are always limited opportunities. We've all gone through that. They know that and they are working towards that. They have that hunger that they want to do well in whatever opportunities they get. They've got big numbers, big scores in Vijay Hazare and that's always a great sign."
With India set to experiment, Rohit has set his targets as well. While winning games remains of utmost importance, the side will try to put themselves in tough situations to find answers. While the first target for Rohit is to improve India's ranking in the format, the second is to get better at setting targets. "We have looked at numbers and how we have done in that department. We are really good at chasing and something we really want to focus on is setting a target. That's something we are lacking," Rohit pointed out.
"The last T20I, we played against South Africa in Bangalore, the pitch was very sticky. If it was a final or a semifinal, we would have chased for sure. But we want to challenge ourselves. We want all our bases covered before we head into that World Cup. We want to win games as well. It's not about trying and letting it go so easy. The first priority is to win games and then everything else.
"We have not had a great run and we are ranked five and we want to get that number higher. We want to be at the top. That's the standard we have set and there's no reason we can't get that. My job at this point is just to take the team forward. Virat has put in place certain processes and I just want to carry that forward."
India, even having won all their eight T20Is against Bangladesh, can't take the visitors likely. The last time these two sides met, the game was decided on the final ball of the contest. The game before that - in Sri Lanka in Nidahas Trophy - was won only by 17 runs. In 2016, in the T20 WC, India managed to sneak in a one-run win.
Rohit admitted the side isn't taking Bangladesh lightly but the focus stays squarely on the new players. "Bangladesh is a very good team, both home and away. They have always put us under pressure, so there's no way we look at this team differently. I know they have two key players missing but they can beat any team on their day. For us, it's important not to focus on the opposition too much. We have a lot of new guys who want to go out there show what they are capable of, so we will focus on that particular aspect more."