While Dhoni’s tactic was always about stretching the game as far as possible and stifling the opposition in a pressure-cooker situation, Kohli preferred an in-yourface attacking approach from Ball 1.
During his partnership with Shastri, we saw the influx of specialists — be it out-and-out pace or wrist spin. It worked for a while but went bust in UAE last year as India failed to go beyond the group stage, which prompted a regime change.
The coach-captain duo of Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma took charge and they had one full year to forge a fresh template to bring back the T20 World Cup which India won in 2007.
Dravid has been quietly authoritative and Rohit has played along. One understands that Dravid, with an academic bent of mind, loves to deal with data and looks to infer from those while Rohit’s chilled-out approach gives a lot of confidence to the new players who are looking to find a footing.
In a game against West Indies sometime back, Rohit had the option of bowling tried and tested Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the last over against a faltering opposition, but he gave the ball to Avesh Khan just to see whether the paceman was up for the challenge. Avesh couldn’t keep the runs down. Rohit didn’t mind the defeat, as long as he
could make his own inferences about the players.
As many as seven players have made their T20 debuts since the time Rohit and Dravid took over and from that group three — Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel and Deepak Hooda — have made the World Cup cut.
They have also brought back Dinesh Karthik as the finisher on the back of a brilliant 2022 IPL and that has curtailed the playing time of Rishabh Pant, otherwise a certainty in all formats till the last T20 World Cup.
TOI takes a look at the experiments Rohit and Dravid did over the last one year and what is to be expected from this team as they start their journey against Pakistan on Sunday.
Bowlers with cutters and slower-ones getting preference
It’s not that raw pace wasn’t tried. Avesh, Umran made debuts for India with one eye on the World Cup but the
last IPL became a game-changer for the likes of Arshdeep and Harshal.
Their ability to mix pace, bowl yorkers and stay calm under pressure made them an exciting package. Both Arshdeep and Harshal have been moderately successful so far in
their brief international careers, but there have been occasions when teams have targeted the duo — especially Harshal.
While the Haryana boy can effectively bowl the slower one, his upper pace limit is not too high. The slower ball seems to be his only go-to delivery and top batters have given enough indication in recent games that they are waiting for it. Having said that, their lack of pace could stand them in good stead in Australia where the grounds are big and the batters will have to generate power to hit them over the boundary.
Just, they may not have the cushion of using the short ball in order to push batsmen on the back foot — a tried and tested weapon in Australia.
The DK experiment
Pant, not too long ago, was an automatic choice in the XI. But Karthik forced his way back into the Indian team with some outstanding performances for RCB.
While Karthik’s attitude, work-ethic and desire to succeed are unquestionable, the natural flair of Pant makes him a player of different class. Karthik, despite all his brilliance, doesn’t have the fear-factor that Pant has in international cricket and it’s to be seen who becomes the chosen one in the XI.
Axar, a forced change
This is one experiment that Rohit and Dravid have been forced to make. If Ravindra Jadeja was fit, there was no place for Axar in the team, even though he has been an honest trier.
The two allrounders, Hardik Pandya and Jadeja, together would have been brilliant for India in Australia, but that was not to be. Axar doesn’t have the explosive element in his batting that Jaddu possesses, but to maintain the balance of the team, it will be very difficult for India to make him sit out.