T20 World Cup 2022: Dravid has Rahul's back

The opener's place has come under the microscope after some low scores but the coach pours cold water on suggestions he may be overlooked going forward in the World Cup.

Published: 02nd November 2022 09:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd November 2022 09:14 AM   |  A+A-

India's Virat Kohli (R) and KL Rahul attend a net practice session with teammates.(Photo | AFP)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: One of the positives that players speak about Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid’s tenure has been the disappearance of insecurity with regards to their spot in XI. Of course, it is a very thin line between taking the spot for granted and playing without worrying about your place, but it makes a huge difference for players, especially batters.

There are no knee-jerk reactions and enough opportunities are handed before looking at the next option.  As India look to get their T20 World Cup campaign back on track, the captain-coach duo are showing no signs of drifting away from their policy even as a knife hangs around KL Rahul.

In the three innings so far at the T20 World Cup, the opener has scores of 4,9 & 9. After a not so good outing at the Asia Cup, Rahul showed signs of returning to form in the two bilaterals against Australia and South Africa. And on arrival in Australia, he had scores 74 & 57 in the practice and warm-up fixtures.

Since then, Rahul’s form has become the focal point, with Rohit and Kohli made to dig-in at the top.
India, though, are not fretting over it. At least for now. At least that is what Dravid said on the eve of their match against Bangladesh at Adelaide.

“No, not all,” Dravid said when asked if Rahul’s form is a matter of concern. “I think he's a fantastic player, and he's got a proven track record. He's done really well. I thought he's been batting superbly. These things can happen in a T20 game sometimes. It's not been that easy for top-order batters, this tournament has been pretty challenging. Just hoping it all clicks together over the next three or four games.

“We know his quality, we know his ability, and he's really well suited for these kinds of conditions, these kinds of pitches. He's got a good all-around game. He's got a very good strong back-foot game, which is obviously very much required in these conditions,” Dravid added.

The back-foot game that Dravid mentions is what made the team back him to the tilt. For a player who missed a major chunk of matches India played since the end of the last T20 World Cup till the Asia Cup, the team management has thrown his weight behind Rahul precisely for what he can offer on these pitches.

There was even temptation to play Rishabh Pant, another player who is almost tailor-made for the conditions thanks to his cross-batted shots, at the top. But India put those plans on the backburner to accommodate Rahul for the time being. Given this is an unusual time to play cricket in Australia, India have been wary of the conditions, where they feel a compact batter is needed more than a flamboyant one. And the matches so far have reflected that with pacers getting good purchases early on. 

However, what refuses to go away even in such conditions is whether Rahul is able to play the role that has been offered. In three matches, he has inside-edged one, was LBW against Netherlands, and against South Africa, was caught at slip. Off 34 deliveries he has faced in the tournament, he has hit only one boundary and a six, a sign of lacking the necessary intent that one relates with T20s.

"In Rohit's and my mind, there's absolutely no doubt about who's going to open for us. Rest assured, both in words and in action, over the last year, he (Rahul) knows he has our support. He has known that. There has been a lot of clarity about what our side is going to be, what our squad is going to be coming into this tournament, and we haven't wavered from that for a very long time. He's had phases where he's unfortunately been injured. But in word and in action, with all of our players — that's the great thing about Rohit, that he's really shown them that confidence and that belief,” Dravid said.

As the tournament heads to Adelaide — which traditionally serves batting-friendly conditions — India may need to alter their tactics. While quickfire starts have been hard to come by, weather permitting, this could change in Adelaide.

“There is a unique nature to playing this tournament in this country, that almost game-to-game you're having to adapt your tactics, your strategies to different conditions. I think that's the uniqueness of that. If the conditions dictate that the ball is nipping around doing a bit, then we can afford our batsmen to maybe be a little bit more conservative, keep wickets in hand and then target. It's about adapting and being smart. I don't think there's just one way to play T20 cricket in all conditions. It might be really flat when we come out here tomorrow (Wednesday), and it might become a 180 wicket and we might need to go harder,” Dravid said.


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