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ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 – Rohit Sharma on India’s bowling experiments: ‘We wanted to see what we can achieve’

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ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 – Rohit Sharma on India’s bowling experiments: ‘We wanted to see what we can achieve’


Virat Kohli picked up his first ODI wicket since 2014 and Rohit Sharma took his first since 2012 as India’s 160-run win over Netherlands extended their undefeated streak to 9-0 in the ODI World Cup. India went in with five frontline options, but Rohit was in the mood for experiments with the semi-finals coming up. It led to nearly eight overs delivered by part-timers – including Suryakumar Yadav and Shubman Gill – and Jasprit Bumrah getting a chance to fine-tune his wide yorkers at the end.

“It is something always in our mind when you have five bowlers” Rohit said at the presentation, “You want to create [those] options within the team and I think we have that option now. Today, we had nine options. It’s important. This was the game where we could have tried certain things. The seamers going out there and bowling [those] wide yorkers when it was not needed. But we wanted to do that, as a team, as a bowling unit we wanted to try and do something different and see what we can achieve.”

India came into the tournament with Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur as their fifth and sixth bowling options, but Pandya’s ankle injury ruled him out of the tournament. India dealt with the setback by shifting their team balance, going with six specialist batters and five frontline bowlers instead of bringing R Ashwin or Thakur in the mix. With part-timers taking wickets and the middle order firing with the bat, India have showcased their bench strength ahead of the knockouts.

“We always built the squad keeping in mind that we need six bowling options and kind of build the depth of the squad.” Rahul Dravid, India’s coach, told Star Sports. “Obviously, Hardik was an important part of that puzzle in the sense that he gave you that balance. But once we lost him, I just think the way the guys have responded – yes, we have only five bowling options – but each and every one of them is performing really well and bowling really well, and I think that gives Rohit a lot of confidence as well. He [Kohli] did take a wicket as well, after nine years, so could give him some credit.”

The foundation for the win against Netherlands was laid by India’s batters, who put up 410 for 4, with centurions KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer putting on a 208-run stand for the fourth wicket off 128 balls. Dravid heaped praise on them and said that it gave the team more wiggle room to try out different options in the chase.

“Just the way that the middle order has batted means that, I’d like to believe our lower order can contribute if needed, but just knowing we’ve got seven top-quality batsmen makes a big difference as well. So, we’ve had to go to probably what is plan B for us [without Pandya the allrounder] but just the way we responded and the way we played in the last five games has been fantastic. It gives us a lot of confidence going into the semi-final.

“It gave us an opportunity, after they got the big score, to be able to mix and match a little bit, and look at some of the other options that, hopefully, we don’t need, but we may need.”

Reflecting on India’s progress, Rohit was delighted with their ability to find match-winners in different conditions and situations against all oppositions.

“Very, very pleased with how we’ve played in these nine games,” Rohit said. “Very clinical from game one till today. That’s only because different individuals have stepped up at different points in time. This is a good sign for a team when everyone wants to take the responsibility and get the job done for the team. Although we play in India a lot of cricket we know the conditions, when you play different oppositions that’s the challenge. We adapted really well. We started the tournament four [five] games in a row [chasing] and then we had to bat first, put the runs on the board and then seamers did the rest, along with the spinners.

“Since we started the tournament, for us it was all about thinking about one game at a time and playing that game well. We never wanted to look too far ahead because it’s a long tournament, 11 games in all, if you go all the way. That’s a lot of games. So, it was important for us to break it down and focus on one game and play that well. That is what everyone did, we focused on that one game because you play in different venues, different conditions, you’re gonna adapt and play accordingly. That is exactly what we did.”

India now go into their fourth straight ODI World Cup semi-final but have fallen on that hurdle in their last two attempts. When asked about putting the past behind, Dravid noted that the team is aware of the high stakes but that wouldn’t change their approach or preparation.

“I think we’ll be inauthentic if we say that it’s just another game. Yes, of course it’s a semi-final but I think our processes and what we’ve done in the lead-up to each and every game is not going to change. We do recognise that it is an important game, it is a knockout game, we have to accept the fact that there is going to be a certain amount of pressure but I think the way we have responded to the pressure so far gives us a lot of belief and a lot of confidence.

“I don’t think we’ll change anything in the way we prepare or the way we plan for the semi-finals. I’m really confident that just the vibe in the group, the energy in the group, just that confidence in the group, is really good at this point of time. All we can do is play what’s in front of us, focus on the next ball, stay in the present moment, and try and do the best we possibly can. You have no guarantees to win any single game of cricket, what you really can do is prepare well and plan well and do the best that we possibly can. I’m really hoping that’s what we do in the next couple of days and hopefully play a really good game of cricket.”

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