Coach Dravid, captain Rohit identified player pool with like-for-like backups and assigned series to each cricketer
DUBAI: Head coach Rahul Dravid had a long, intense chat with Virat Kohli during India’s practice session on Friday evening. An hour earlier, Ravindra Jadeja had been ruled out of the remainder of the Asia Cup due to a recurring knee injury. Dravid has been always meticulous in his planning. He doesn’t like leaving anything to chance.
In a larger context, Jadeja’s departure from the Asia Cup may be seen as a jolt to India’s preparation for the upcoming T20 World Cup. But Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma had already prepared a blueprint for the pool of players in February.
The frequent rotation of players in the past six months may seem jarring to a lot of people but most of it was pre-planned. “The captain and coach had sat down with the strength and conditioning coach and the physios in February. They had marked the entire year’s schedule. Rohit and Dravid had given them a pool of players. The support staff was told to ensure those players are available and in the best shape for theT20 World Cup. Thus, each series was marked for the players to play in,” a source told TOI.
While all the attention was on India’s probable top 15 players, the team management was actually working towards like-for-like options for every player. In effect, the team management had been looking at about 30 players. The team management has stood firm with its plans.
Axar flies in for Jadeja
Axar Patel, who has been marked as Ravindra Jadeja’s like-for-like backup, was flown in on Friday night. Jadeja has gone back and the BCCI’s medical team will be monitoring his progress. Jadeja has been facing issues with his right knee for a year now. The team management doesn’t want to take any chances with his fitness ahead of the T20 World Cup. In such a scenario, it will be interesting to see India’s combination given Rishabh Pant is the only top-order left-handed batter left in the team.
Treading with caution
‘Workload management’ has been the buzzword in Indian cricket for the last four years. This Indian team management has been trying to ensure no one breaks down in the middle of a series or tournament.
“It has been decided that if the trainers and physios feel a player is about to hit his threshold, he will be rested straightaway. If any player reveals any discomfort, the team management is willing to rest him at that very point. It’s better to err on the side of caution,” the source added.
Rohit has also categorically mentioned a pool of fast bowlers he wants to use. Those bowlers are always under watch. Deepak Chahar is a case in point. Unlike other standbys, Chahar has been working with the team here in Dubai. Shreyas Iyer and Axar Patel were asked to stay back in India. They were told they would be flown in only if a replacement was needed.
Chahar is seen as Bhuvneshwar’s like-for-like backup. He has a history of breaking down. He joined the team in Zimbabwe after nearly six months and is an integral part of India’s plans. Hence, the team management has been tracking his progress and easing him back into international cricket.
Rotating net bowlers with an aim to groom pace talent
The team management has also decided to rotate net bowlers on tours. The India ‘A’ tours have hit a roadblock once the pandemic hit in early 2020. The ‘A’ tour programme under Dravid has been instrumental in India developing a big pool of fast-bowling resources.
Till the last T20 World Cup, India nearly carried the same set of bowlers on tours to help the team prepare in bio-secure environments. But Dravid has advocated a larger pool of net bowlers to keep them fresh and groom them.
“These players who travel as net bowlers do a lot of bowling on tours. They are also very eager and push themselves to impress. That can backfire as it did with T Natarajan and Washington Sundar, who suffered a knee injury and a spinning-finger injury, last year,” a source said.
“A set of net bowlers will travel with the team and go back to domestic cricket to implement whatever they have learnt with the Indian team. They will learn the difference. And they will come back again to get better because they would know the areas they need to work on.”