Rahul Dravid did not name anyone let alone Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli but he was quite clear that India have decided to look ahead in T20Is keeping next year’s World Cup in mind.
The talks of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli being eased out from the shortest format were already there after India’s T20 World Cup exit from the semi-final. They found wind when both the stalwarts were not named – Rohit was injured – in the India T20I squad for the three-match series and now head coach Rahul Dravid has given strong hints of building a young team keeping the next T20 World Cup in 2024 in mind. Dravid did not name anyone let alone Rohit and Kohli but he was quite clear that India have decided to look ahead in T20Is. The former India captain also added that much of the focus of the seniors will now be in the ODI format, considering the 50-overs World Cup is towards the end of this year at home.
“For us, obviously, from the last semi-final (in the T20 World Cup) that we played against England, only 3-4 boys are playing in the XI (against Sri Lanka). We are slightly in a different stage of looking at the next cycle of T20, so ours is a slightly younger team and for us to play against the quality of Sri Lanka is a fantastic experience. The good thing is that a lot of focus is on the ODI World Cup and World Test Championship, so the T20s give us the opportunity to try out these guys,” Dravid told reporters after India lost to Sri Lanka in the 2nd T20I in Pune.
Dravid is right. From the Indian XI that played against Sri Lanka on Thursday, only Hardik Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav, Axar Patel, and Arshdeep Singh were the ones that were part of the team that suffered a 10-wicket loss to England in the World Cup semi-final last year.
Hardik Pandya has led India in the two T20I series that they have played against New Zealand and Sri Lanka since the World Cup. The selectors haven’t made an official announcement about Hardik’s elevation but it is likely that he will continue to lead in most of the T20Is going forward.
When asked about India’s performance, Dravid said the team management, fans and all others will have to be patient with this young team as they are likely to have an off day like they did in the 2nd T20I against Sri Lanka, losing the match by 16 runs.
“Nobody wants to bowl wides or no-balls, in this format it can hurt you badly. We’ve got to be patient with these young kids. There are a lot of young kids playing, especially in bowling, and they will have games like this at times. We need to understand that. We try to help them technically, we support them and create the right environment. They are very skillful, they are learning. It’s tough to learn on the job in international cricket, so we must be patient,” he added.
While chasing 207, India lost four wickets inside the powerplay but Suryakumar Yadav (51 off 36) and Axar Patel (65* off 30) got India close with some lusty hitting in the last 10 overs of the match. Dravid said Hardik’s decision to bowl first on a pitch that has always preferred sides batting first, was not a bad one as the dew made sure the chasing team was always in the game.
“We lost a few wickets. Things could have been different if we had had wickets, but we still got close. There was a lot of dew so they couldn’t complete their spinners, it did a bit for seamers but other than that, it was a good wicket. The decision to bowl first was fine. If we would have done better in a few areas, we could have gotten the right result.”
The two sides will meet in the series decider on Saturday in Rajkot.