From South Africa to New Zealand and the Asia Cup, it is a hat-trick of losses for the Indian side. For the team management, though, the alarm bells aren’t ringing. Despite the losses, the powers that be believe that the team building is on the right track and the self belief is not affected.
The Indian cricketers left Dhaka in batches. As they checked out of the team hotel Thursday morning, they weren’t carrying the excess baggage of their early exit from the Asia Cup, if a source in the team management is to be believed.
The management was criticised for not playing the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ishwar Pandey and Varun Aaron in the dead rubber against Afghanistan and a team insider gives the reason.
“We wanted to maintain continuity. It was not a case of playing the last match of the Asia Cup. It was about continuing with the process of preparing for the next tournament. We will be returning here (for the World T20) in just over a weeks’ time and we had to focus on a few things.” He elaborated: “Ajinkya Rahane is a part of the World T20 squad. He batted at No. 4 in the last few matches, but opening has been his natural position. So we sent him to open the innings (against Afghanistan) which allowed him to play his natural game. It also allowed us to have a look at the options available for the next tournament.”
He went on: “Rohit Sharma is a player who could be used anywhere. Of late, he has been struggling a bit, opening the innings. But Rohit is an integral part of our combination and we decided to send him at No. 3 to allow him some batting practice in a different situation. Older ball and a spread-out field offer scopes for singles and twos, and we wanted Rohit to rotate the strike to get into his batting rhythm.”
But what about bowling, especially the seamers?
“Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are still learning at this level — bowling upfront, bowling at the death. Also in these conditions, we always wanted all three spinners to play.
Defeats haven’t demoralised the team management because there’s “significant progress”. “You’ve to put things in perspective. This is a transitional phase. Look at Australia and England. Team building doesn’t happen overnight.
“Our Asia Cup team had only one player (Kohli) from the last World Cup. And this is not the final squad. There could be changes in the lead-up to the next World Cup. Results are not always important at this stage. We must take pride from the fact that the youngsters stood up to be counted and put the opponents under serious pressure. Some of them had their first overseas tours,” said the team source.
Coach Duncan Fletcher is copping flak for India’s series of losses. But the news from the camp suggests that the Zimbabwean is not unduly perturbed because he has the respect of the players.