Rohit’s focus on bench strength
After the pollution hazard in Delhi, the threat of Cyclone Maha looms over the second T20I in Rajkot on Thursday.
India lost the smog-hit opening T20I by seven wickets on Sunday and will be keen to draw level before going into the final match of the series in Nagpur.
However, if the match is washed out or abandoned because of rain, the pressure will be more on the hosts. Bangladesh will then smell a rare chance for a series win. The fact that they are in this position despite the absence of their two premier players — Shakib-al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal — is truly commendable.
India have not had the kind of success in T20Is as they have enjoyed in the other two formats of late and that is evident from the results this year. They have already lost a series at home this year — to Australia — before drawing against South Africa. In the absence of some senior players, including regular captain Virat Kohli, the series is an ideal platform for the fringe players to show that they are up for the challenge.
“This is the format where we are trying a lot of players. The key players are not involved (in this series), so we are trying the younger players who are sitting on the fringe. That is one of the reasons, because in other formats we have our entire squad playing,” Rohit Sharma said at the match-eve media conference.
“This is the format where you can try (new players), and there is no harm in doing that. We have seen a lot of players who have emerged from this format, who have gone on to play ODI and Test formats,” Rohit said. “We want our bench strength to be as strong as possible. This is probably the reason why you see so many new guys coming into the fray and playing,” he said.
India’s stand-in captain hinted at rejigging the pace combination while defending the batting line-up, in which senior opener Shikhar Dhawan has been struggling for some time.
India had a par-score of 148 on a sluggish Kotla track and it was pacer Khaleel Ahmed, who was hit for four boundaries by Mushfiqur Rahim in the 19th over that changed the complexion of the game.
“Our batting looks good. So I don’t think there’s any change we need to make in our batting. But we’ll analyse the pitch, and based on that we’ll see what we can do as a team,” Rohit, who is set to play his 100th T20I, said.
While he didn’t take names, there is a chance of Shardul Thakur coming in place of Khaleel, whose pace at times is making it easier for the batsmen to negotiate at the death.
“The (pace bowling) combination that we played in the last game, it was based on the pitch that was on offer in Delhi,” Rohit said. He is expecting the Rajkot track to play better than the one in Delhi.
“The pitch looks good. Rajkot has always been a good track to bat on and it does offer some assistance to the bowlers also. It will be a good pitch. I’m pretty sure it will be better than what you saw in Delhi,” he said. “I cannot tell you strategy but what I can definitely tell you is that there will be changes in our approach. In the last match, we played according to the pitch. We were playing as per the ways the pitch was reacting.
“But if the pitch here (in Rajkot) is good, our approach will be different as well in both bowling and batting.
“We have seen the pitch in Delhi was challenging, the ball was gripping and turning. On such kind of wickets, you never know what is a good score. As far as Rajkot pitch is concerned, there is hope that it will play better than Delhi’s, and thus our approach will be different,” he said.
Heavy rain, associated with lightning, lashed Rajkot on Wednesday evening. The wicket at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium is, however, covered. Cyclone Maha is expected to make landfall on the Gujarat coast on the day of the match, which could lead to heavy rain in some parts.
As per the India Meteorological Department’s forecast, the “extremely severe cyclonic storm Maha has weakened into a very severe cyclonic storm.”
Heavy to very heavy rainfall is likely at isolated places over Gujarat on Thursday but that doesn’t include Rajkot.