A spot in the World Test Championship final at stake, a depleted Indian team has no option but to play an aggressive brand of cricket against Bangladesh in the two-match series starting Wednesday, stand-in skipper KL Rahul said on Monday.
The Indian team will be without three key players - Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and regular skipper Rohit Sharma - due to injuries.
Having already lost the ODI series, the Indian team will need to win its next six Test matches (two in Bangladesh and four vs Australia at home) to remain in contention for a top-two spot in the World Test Championship points table.
As of now, India is placed fourth in the table with 52.08 percentage points while Australia (75 percentage points) and South Africa (60 percentage points) are placed first and second. Sri Lanka, with 64 percentage points, is third in the list.
“There is a Test championship (final) qualification so we will also have to be aggressive. We know where we stand and what we need to do to qualify for the final,” said Rahul during a media conference after the unveiling of the trophy.
“Each day, each session we will assess what is required for the team in that particular moment and give our best.” The season-ending World Test Championship will be held in June, 2023 at the Oval in London.
Flexibility in mindset is the order of the hour and a key recipe for success.
“We won’t go in with any set mindset. Yes, there is a certain history of a venue, you look at the numbers and take some pointers from that. At least for us we will go there and try to be aggressive and brave, try and get a result.
“The game is played over five days so it is important to break it down to smaller targets. In every session, the demands would be different but one thing is sure that you are going to see a lot of aggressive cricket from our side,” the skipper assured.
A lot of this talk of aggressive intent has come watching England team’s radically different ultra-aggressive approach, which has caught the imagination of cricket fans.
And skipper Rahul doesn’t think English style of batsmanship characterises “recklessness”.
“As cricketers, I don’t think it is reckless cricket. They have certain mindset, they thought about it, they back their players and the players are doing the job for the team, so it doesn’t matter how you have done it. Cricket is changing, there is no set way of how this game needs to be played,” the stylish opener said.
Rahul in fact immensely enjoyed England’s 2-0 series win in Pakistan with a Test match still to go.
“To watch these two matches between England and Pakistan has really been interesting. I am really enjoying watching Test cricket being played like that, a very fearless, taking the game on.
“But each team has its own way. All teams can learn a thing or two from the teams that are doing well. You can’t always have the same approach. You turn up according to the conditions,” he said, providing his take on English approach.
‘Hope Rohit can recover and play 2nd Test’
Skipper Rohit Sharma has now missed back-to-back Test matches - one v England in July due to COVID-19 and now against Bangladesh due to left thumb dislocation and split webbing.
“Rohit is an important player for us. He is an experienced player and captain of our team. He is someone that the team will really miss but we hope he can recover quickly and comeback for the second Test,” Rahul said.
Don’t know criteria for selecting vice-captain’
The previous national selection committee had named Cheteshwar Pujara as vice-captain for the Bangladesh series even as chairman Chetan Sharma had said that Rishabh Pant and Jasprit Bumrah along with Rahul are being groomed as future leaders.
Pujara is just about holding onto to his spot in the Test squad and vice-captaincy will be an absolute boost. Pujara was also named vice-captain for one Test match during the 2020-21 historic tour of Australia.
When Rahul was asked about the vice captaincy, he sidestepped the issue.
“Regarding vice-captain, at least I don’t know what is the criteria. Whoever is picked, you give yourself a pat on the back. It really doesn’t change too many things, everybody in the team knows their roles and responsibilities.” He didn’t want to distinguish between who could have been a better deputy.
“Rishabh and Pujara both have been brilliant for us in Test cricket and have done the job so many times. So we really don’t think much. The team wins as eleven players and when we go down we go down as whole team. Everyone has responsibility.”
‘Shubman has done his job whenever given opportunity’
As a skipper, it is always important to back the performers and Rahul believes that his likely opening partner Shubman Gill is one of them.
“Shubman has been a brilliant player and it is wonderful to see his transformation (in ODIs). In Tests, whenever he has got the opportunity he has done the job for the team. He has temperament for the longest format. In every format, he is exciting. What we can do is back exciting and talented players.” Rahul believes in empowering his players to make their own on-field decisions and play with a free mind.
“It is important as a leader to back your players, let them make their own decisions. At the same time, it is also important that we enjoy our cricket and not really think too much. It is about what we require to do as a team and as individuals to win the game for the country,” the Bangalore man said.