Dual captaincy and rest for head coach? Questions galore for Men in Blue

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India's skipper Rohit Sharma plays a shot during the Semi-Final match of ICC Mens T20 World Cup 2022 between India and England (ANI)

india in New zealand The New Zealand series comprises three T20Is and as many ODIs. Once the tour ends with the third and final limited over international on November 30, the Kiwis will return to India for a white-ball series in January next year

Our Bureau
Mumbai/Auckland

Former India coach Ravi Shastri has shared his thoughts on dual captaincy and agreed with suggestions that India should have new captain for the T20 format. Ravi Shastri said there would be “no actual harm” for India to consider the option of having a new T20I captain to lessen the burden on Rohit Sharma, who now captains India in all three formats. Following the World Cup in Australia, the selectors rested the senior players, leaving Hardik Pandya in charge of the Indian T20I team in New Zealand.

Pandya took up the position for the first time in Ireland earlier this year after leading Gujarat Titans to victory in their first foray in the tournament.

“For T20 cricket, there is no harm in having a new captain because the volume of cricket is such that for one player to play all three formats of the game is never going to be easy. If Rohit is already leading in Tests and ODIs, there is no harm in identifying a new T20I captain and if his name is Hardik Pandya, so be it,” Shastri said during a virtual press conference facilitated by Prime Video ahead of the first T20I in Wellington on Friday.

The 1983 World Cup winning player backed Umran Malik, who has been selected for both the T20I and ODI squads and believes he would add much-needed pace to the bowling attack in New Zealand.

During Shastri’s stint as coach, Malik was selected for India’s net bowling team in the 2021 T20 World Cup. Malik later made his T20I debut under Pandya in Ireland earlier this year.

“He is one of the fastest bowlers in India and you saw what happened in the World Cup where genuine pace rattled opposition, whether it was Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah or Anrich Nortje. So, there is no substitute for genuine pace, even if you are defending small totals. So, this is an opportunity for Umran. Hopefully, he will learn from this exposure,” Shastri said.

The first of a three-match T20I series on the Kiwi soil, which follows India’s heart-breaking semi-final exit from the T20 World Cup, will kick off on Friday.

The New Zealand series comprises three T20Is and as many ODIs. Once the tour ends with the third and final limited over international on November 30, the Kiwis will return to India for a white-ball series in January next year.

India squad for New Zealand T20Is: Hardik Pandya (C), Rishabh Pant (vc & wk), Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Surya Kumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson (wk), W Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Harshal Patel, Mohd. Siraj, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umran Malik.

New Zealand squad for T20Is: Kane Williamson (c), Finn Allen, Michael Bracewell, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Daryl Mitchell, Adam Milne, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee and Blair Tickner.

No rest for Rahul Dravid

Former India al-rounder and coach Ravi Shastri expressed his disagreement with the plan of giving head coach Rahul Dravid a break ahead of the team’s limited-overs series in New Zealand saying such frequent absence from the dressing room can impact the player-coach relationship.

Dravid, nicknamed ‘The Wall’ during his playing days for his impregnable defence, was given a break for the New Zealand tour, with current National Cricket Academy (NCA) director VVS Laxman taking the coaching reins for the limited-overs series. The first of a three-match T20I series on the Kiwi soil, which follows India’s heart-breaking semi-final exit from the T20 World Cup, will kick off on Friday.

“I do not believe in breaks. Because I want to understand my team, I want to understand my players and I want to be in control of that team. These breaks… what do you need that many breaks for, to be honest? You get your 2-3 months of the IPL, that’s enough for you to rest as a coach. But other times, I think a coach should be hands-on, whoever he is,” Shastri said during a virtual interaction with the press facilitated by Amazon Prime Video ahead of the first T20I in Wellington on Friday.

Not one to mince words, Shastri, however, backed VVS Laxman to kick off the rebuilding phase for India in coloured cricket post the World Cup setback with a series win on Kiwi land. He advised the former batting ace to not be reluctant to select experts for the shortest format, even if doing so leaves ‘some experienced players’ on the bench.

Bat fearlessly, but keep conditions in mind: Laxman

Ahead of the first T20I match against New Zealand, Indian head coach VVS Laxman said that the batters have been asked to play fearless cricket while keeping conditions and situations in mind.

India will kick off its tour of New Zealand with the first T20I in Wellington on Friday. “In T20I cricket, we need to play with freedom and fearlessness and we have such players that can go out and express themselves. The message given to them by the captain and management is that they bat fearlessly but also keep conditions and situations in mind and create strategies accordingly,” said Laxman in a press conference.

Laxman admitted that the shorter format needs more multi-dimensional players, bowlers who can bat and batters who can bowl.

“More number of bowlers who can bat adds depth to batting line-up and gives freedom to batters to go out and express themselves. That is the need of the format and I am sure that more teams will try getting this in their selection process and identify players who are multi-dimensional,” he added.

About skipper Hardik Pandya’s captaincy, the coach said that he is not only tactically good, but also very calm on-field, which is needed while playing in pressure situations at the highest level.

“He is a fabulous leader. We have seen what he has done in IPL. I have spent time with him from Ireland. His presence and work ethic are exemplary. He is a player’s captain and is approachable. Players confide in him. He leads by example,” he added.

Laxman said that it is always challenging to play in New Zealand, especially for bowlers and fielders.

“It is not about the smaller grounds, but the dimensions of the ground. In Wellington and Auckland, there are not normal cricket grounds. The best part of international cricket is that you have to adapt to conditions and situations. I am sure the team will do that. Based on the strengths and weakness of the opponents, you need to create a strategy and execute it perfectly,” he added.

Suryakumar Yadav plays a shot during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 (ANI)

ICC ranking: Suryakumar Yadav retains number one spot

Indian middle-order batter Suryakumar Yadav saw a decline in his rating points, but nonetheless retained his top spot in the ICC T20I Player Rankings issued on Wednesday.

After superb performances in Super 12 of the ICC T20 World Cup, Suryakumar Yadav dethroned Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan to become the top batter. But his rating points declined from 869 to 859 after a poor 14 against England in the semi-final, which Indian lost. Suryakumar still finished the tournament with 239 runs in six innings at an average of 59.75, a strike rate of 189.68, the highest among batters and three half-centuries.

England batter Alex Hales continued to impress, smashing 86* off 47 balls against India in semis, which helped him jump 22 spots to reach number 12 position among batters.

He finished the tournament with 212 runs at an average of 42.40 and two fifties, as the second-highest batter for England. Ever since his comeback to the national side this year after 2019, he has scored 430 runs at an average of 30.71 and a strike rate of 145.27.

Babar Azam’s match-winning half-century in the semis against New Zealand helped him climb to number three in the rankings. Rilee Rossouw of South Africa jumped to the seventh position while Kiwis batter Glenn Phillips dropped to the eighth spot. Both had scored centuries in this T20 World Cup.

Mohammad Rizwan, Devon Conway of New Zealand and Proteas batter Aiden Markram are in the top five as well, with Rizwan and Markram holding firm their second and fifth position. Conway on the other hand lost his third number spot to Babar, dropping to fourth.

Adil Rashid has been the biggest gainer in bowling in T20Is after registering figures of 1/20 against India and 2/22 against Pakistan in the semi-final and final of the T20 World Cup. He climbed to third spot after jumping five places.

Sam Curran., the Player of the Tournament and Man of the Match in the final against Pakistan for his 3/12, moved to number five, making jump of two spots. Wanindu Hasaranga, who finished as the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 15, retains his top place among bowlers.

Among the all-rounders in T20Is, Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan, Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi and India’s Hardik Pandya continue to occupy the top three spots.

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