India wasn’t “excellent” in batting, bowling, or fielding at the Asia Cup and its players were only “80-85 per cent” effective in the execution of their skills, vice-captain K. L. Rahul admitted on Monday.
Two narrow losses – against Pakistan and Sri Lanka – ensured India failed to make it to the final of the Asia Cup. Rahul’s modest returns with the bat and a strike rate of 104.47 in the tournament before the dead rubber against Afghanistan – he scored a 41-ball 62 – reflected poorly on India’s aggressive T20 philosophy of recent months and may have contributed to the debacle. The bowlers weren’t at their best in the Powerplay or in the death overs, allowing both Pakistan and Sri Lanka to chase down good totals.
“We’ve still not been very good in terms of batting or excellent in terms of our bowling, or excellent in terms of our fielding. There are a few things we need to fix. As I see it, you can only win a game and you can only win big tournaments if all these things are done well and everybody comes together. That is when a team wins a championship,” Rahul told the media assembled at the PCA stadium here.
Rahul clarified, however, that the team was keen to learn from its mistakes and make the most of the “journey” it has had since the T20 World Cup last year in order to ensure success in Australia this year in the same tournament.
Rahul indicated that his low strike rate had to do with the fulfilment of his responsibilities as an opener in the given match situations. India batted first in most matches in the Asia Cup and he said he had to be cautious early on.
“Batting second at any stage of the game you have to be aggressive, you have to be in a mindset where you are looking to get boundaries. So, it’s the same thing with me when I go to open the batting. Obviously, if you’re batting first you do want to give yourself three or four balls to understand how the pitch is behaving and then try and see how you can put the bowlers under pressure and utilise the Powerplay,” he said.
‘ Care and support’
Rahul was happy that the team backed him despite his less-than-impressive performances.
“We’ve had a leader, coach and support staff who are encouraging that are that are appreciating players not just when they go well but also when they’re going through a tough time. This is what a player wants to see - a little bit of support and a little bit of care when someone is down or someone’s not had a great [run].”
Both Dinesh Karthik, who is seen as a specialist finisher, and Rishabh Pant played in the Asia Cup. Both are wicketkeepers who bat in the middle order and can play useful cameos. Rahul felt the two players had “different” roles to play in the team and that it was possible for both to figure in the line-up if the need arose.
“It depends on what kind of combination we want to go with. It will always depend on – firstly, the surface that we’re going to play on and secondly, the teams that we’re playing against. These are decisions that are not easy,” Rahul said.
“Both of them are high-quality players and they have been playing really well. Both of them, to me, do different roles. For us as a team, and for the captain and the coach and the leadership group, is to see what we’re expecting.”
A wide-open World Cup’
Australia captain Aaron Finch said his team wouldn’t hesitate to include learnings from the T20I series against India in plans for the T20 World Cup despite the vast difference in the pitch and overall conditions between India and Australia.
“Seeing the wicket yesterday, it looked like there was quite a bit of grass on it. We know in Mohali the ball can swing around and it can carry through quite a bit. I think we’d be mindful of not being too narrow-minded in terms of our focus.”
“What we’ve tried to do over the last six-eight-ten months is make sure that everything that we’re doing in the T20 space ties back into the World Cup. For us, it’s about making sure that once we get there, we’ve had plenty of different combinations and teams that we can play.”
“The last thing you want to do is have an injury derail your whole campaign because you’re pigeonholed into playing one style of cricket or one structure of team. So, there will be a little bit of mixing and matching with one eye towards the World Cup to make sure we’re as rounded as we can as a squad,” Finch explained.
The T20 World Cup, Finch felt, was a “very wide” open World Cup as several teams had match winners who could take their team to the title. India had an excellent team as well, Finch said, with Virat Kohli now back to his best.
“You’d be a very brave man to write off Virat at any stage. He’s shown for 15 years now that he is one of the greatest players of all time. And particularly in T20 cricket, he’s someone who has developed his game and grown his game over such a long period of time. You’re always trying to prepare the best you can when you’re coming up against Virat. He’s super. Seventy-one international hundreds, that’s just ridiculous, isn’t it?”
Finch specified that Steve Smith is likely to play at No. 3 in the absence of Mitchell Marsh. He heaped praise on Tim David, the exciting big hitter in the squad, and Cameron Green, but maintained that what made his team successful – it won the T20 World Cup in 2021 – was the bond between the members.
“What’s made our squad so good over a long period of time is how close everyone is – the connection that everyone’s got as well.”