Rohit wants India to be flexible, with brains and class

India captain says players have been given roles but must be ready to play different ones if need arises

ESPNcricinfo Staff

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Flexibility in mind and versatility in the middle order will be key for India to unlock their potential in the ODI World Cup, according to their captain Rohit Sharma.

“One thing I want in this team is to make sure everyone is fit to bat anywhere,” Rohit told a press conference to announce India’s Asia Cup squad in New Delhi. “That’s one thing we have to keep in mind. You need versatility, guys who can step up to any position. Nobody should say, ‘I’m good at this position or I’m good at that position.’ You want guys to be able to to bat anywhere, that’s the message being conveyed to every person. Not now, but in the last three-four years.”

In a sense, Rohit was echoing the views of former India coach Ravi Shastri, who earlier in the week spoke of no player occupying any position and how even someone as senior as Virat Kohli should drop to No. 4 if the combination of the group required the.

“I know it’s difficult for guys overseas to understand why a guy who fits at six is ​​batting at four, but the message has been given. This is international sport, not club cricket, you’re talking about. It’s not like we sleep giving a place for a certain player and then we change it the next morning.

“We’re saying, ‘That’s what we want.’ anyone, that’s the message we’ve been sending for so many years now.”

Rohit cited the example of Axar Patel to emphasize what he meant. He felt Axar is best suited to disrupt the opposition as a floater who can take over the game at any position in the batting unit. Rohit felt this ability gave him the edge over say R Ashwin or Washington Sundar.

“Where it comes down to is the batting selection at No. 8 and No. 9,” Rohit said. “Axar, you know he’s had a good run this year, batted well in white-ball cricket. He didn’t get many opportunities in the red ball, but he played well in the white ball, especially in the IPL. He had a few opportunities in the West Indies but they couldn’t take them. they manage, but with him there, it gives us the option of having a left-hander who can move up the order and play spinners if needed and also create depth in the batting.”

Rohit Sharma and Ajit Agarkar hold a press conference where India’s Asia Cup squad is announced AFP via Getty Images

Ajit Agarkar, India’s chairman of selectors, further elaborated on Rohit’s views on versatility.

“Rohit didn’t say one can play anywhere,” Agarkar said. “What he said is that a player has to be flexible in his mind. A player knows his role, where he is going to play, who is likely to bowl. in the middle overs – those roles are defined. But as the game or the tournament progresses , you look at someone’s form or the form of the team you are playing against, players have to be flexible in mind.

“Every captain has a plan that this batsman is going to hit here, and we’re going to play that particular way, but as the tournament goes on, if somebody’s form is good, somebody’s playing well or the matches dictate that they play somebody against a certain bowler . We’re talking about that kind of flexibility, which is important. There’s so much talent on the team. If there’s talent, that flexibility will come. It doesn’t mean the role isn’t defined, the roles are defined, you feel comfortable because of that.”

“It’s not like the opener at eight and the eight opens, we don’t do crazy things like that. A little bit of flexibility up and down is needed in a team.”Rohit Sharma

At this point, Rohit stepped in to clarify his comments about versatility and why it shouldn’t be taken literally.

“When I said versatility is important, it’s not as if I mean sending the opener at No. 7 or opening the batting with Hardik Pandya,” Rohit said. “Sikhar [Dhawan] and Rohit have only opened in the last seven-eight years, Kohli has only batted in three. The youngsters coming in at four or five, it’s important for them to be flexible, to hit up and down.

“The last four-five years if you look, the opener has been opened, No. 3 has hit three, KL [Rahul] he has hit five, Hardik six, [Ravindra] Jadeja seven. Four and five, sometimes if they move up and down, no problem. So much flexibility is important. Our position also when we came in, we hit up and down, I’m talking about that flexibility. It’s not like the opener at eight and the eight opens, we don’t do crazy things like that. It takes a bit of flexibility up and down a team.”

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