DUBAI: “We respect their bowling attack, but we have a good bowling attack (of our own) that produces results. We might not be as….” Rahul Dravid paused, scratched his head and then continued with an awkward smile: “The word is coming out of my mind but I can’t use it here. It’s a four-letter word that starts with ‘S’. Let’s say (we) might not look (as) glamorous.”
The press conference room broke into laughter. Dravid was responding to a journalist’s suggestion that Pakistan may have a much more potent bowling attack than India. Team India‘s head coach wasn’t going to just let that pass on the eve of India’s second match against Pakistan in this tournament on Saturday.
The heatwave seemed to be back here in Dubai on Saturday, and Dravid too turned up the heat a notch. For the past 10 days, people have been craving for a bit of spice from either camp in this usually animated rivalry. Few would have guessed that it would eventually come from the politically correct Dravid.
“I agree that they bowled pretty well in the last match. But we also did restrict them to 147. We may see that few of them bowled at 145 or 147 kmph but at the end of the day, bowling analysis is the most important thing. You are judged by the results. Bowling analysis of our bowlers was also pretty good,” Dravid declared. “Our batters like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli have scored heavily against Pakistan in big tournaments and matches.”
Dravid was simply putting up an aggressive front for his team. Much of the hype around this Asia Cup has been centred around how Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma are using this tournament as a pit stop ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia in October. Every team that has been picked and every XI that India have fielded over the last few weeks have been seen as an indication of India’s approach towards that World Cup. That captain Rohit had declared that his team would continue to experiment only added to the anxiety about the team’s preparations.
“We are here to play the Asia cup. We are playing the conditions. The whole purpose to build a balanced squad was that it should be able to play in all kinds of conditions,” Dravid said.
How India and Pakistan have fared at the Asia Cup
“We may not succeed in every area. We might not get the perfect selection of skills in the XV. But the effort is there to get most bases covered. We are looking at tomorrow’s game in Dubai and what we need to do in these conditions. At the back of your mind, you have Australia but the focus is purely on tomorrow (Sunday). Although we did think the Asia Cup will be the final piece in our preparations, we have always come here to play the best possible squad or XI we can select, unless there are any niggles or injuries.”
Concerns over top-order’s approach
As India’s preparations gain momentum, the rusty top-order comprising Rohit, Kohli and KL is a concern. However, Dravid advocated for having a smart approach rather than just being rigid about the brand of cricket.
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“Of course, we want to play aggressive cricket. But you need to be smart about the conditions. It’s about having those par-plus totals. Every match won’t be a 200-run game. In some matches, the pitch, bowling attack and the ground conditions dictate lesser totals. We have seen here that 150 seemed a par total the other day. We are not looking at 50s or big 100s. It’s the small contributions that count,” Dravid said.
Jadeja in doubt for T20 WC?
Ravindra Jadeja may be in doubt for the T20 World Cup in October. Sources have told TOI that Jadeja’s chances of making it to the T20 World Cup have become bleak after he was ruled out of the Asia Cup due to a recurring right knee injury.
“The injury looks bad. As of now, it looks like he is gone for a fair amount of time. A decision on his surgery will be taken by the BCCI medical team,” the source said.
Head coach Dravid, however, didn’t want to give much away. “Jadeja has injured his knee. He is under the care of the medical team. The World Cup is a fair way away. I don’t want to rule him out or rule him in. I don’t want to make too many comments. We will see how he goes in the six-eight week depending on the rehab,” Dravid said on Saturday.
Tough calls on selecting 15
Dravid said he had to have some difficult conversations with some players in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup. “Few players will miss out who did well when they were given the opportunities but it was up to the team combination. We had to have difficult conversations. There are 5-6 players outside the 15 we have selected here, I have had some discussions. Those were not easy ones. You have to respect that. But players are also wise enough to understand. There is real quality who sit out of the XI,” he said.