While Dhoni’s tactics were always about stretching the game as far as possible and stifling the opposition in a pressure cooker situation, Kohli preferred an in-your-face attacking approach from Ball 1.
During his partnership with Shastri, we saw the influx of specialists – be it out-and-out pace or wrist spin. It worked for a while but failed in the UAE last year as India could not go beyond the group stage, prompting a regime change.
The coach-captain duo of Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma took charge and they had one full year to create a new template for the T20 World Cup which India won in 2007.
Dravid was quietly authoritative and Rohit played along. One gets the sense that Dravid, with an academic frame of mind, likes to interact with data and draw conclusions from it, while Rohit’s chilled-out approach gives a lot of confidence to the new players looking for a foothold.
In a match against West Indies sometime back, Rohit had the option of bowling Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the last over against a reeling opposition but he gave the ball to Avesh Khan just to see if the pacer was ready is up for the challenge. Avesh could not keep the runs low. Rohit didn’t mind the defeat as long as he
could make his own conclusions about the players.
As many as seven players have made their T20 debut since the time Rohit and Dravid took over and out of that group three — Arshdeep SinghHarshal Patel and Deepak Hooda – made the World Cup cut.
They also brought back Dinesh Karthik as the finisher on the back of a brilliant 2022 IPL and that curtailed the playing time of Rishabh Pant, otherwise a certainty in all formats until the last T20 World Cup.
TOI takes a look at the experiments Rohit and Dravid have done over the past year and what can be expected from this team when they begin their journey against Pakistan on Sunday.
Bowlers with cutters and slowers get preference
It’s not such a raw pace that hasn’t been tried. Avesh, Umran debuted for India with one eye on the World Cup, but the
last IPL became a game changer for the likes of Arshdeep and Harshal.
Their ability to mix pace, bowl yorkers and remain calm under pressure made them an exciting package. Both Arshdeep and Harshal have been moderately successful so far
their short international careers, but there have been occasions where teams have targeted the duo – especially Harshal.
While the Haryana boy can bowl the slower one effectively, his upper pace limit is not too high. The slower ball seems to be his only indicator and top batsmen have given enough indication in recent games that they are waiting for it. That said, their lack of pace could stand them in good stead in Australia where the pitch is big and the batsmen will need to generate power to hit them over the boundary.
Only, they may not have the cushion to use the short ball to put batsmen on the back foot – a tried and tested weapon in Australia.
The DK experiment
Pant, not too long ago, was an automatic pick in the XI. But Karthik forced his way back into the Indian team with some outstanding performances for RCB.
While Karthik’s attitude, work ethic and desire to succeed is unquestionable, the natural flair of Pant makes him a player of other classes. Karthik, for all his brilliance, lacks the fear factor that Pant has in international cricket and it remains to be seen who will be the chosen one in the XI.
Axar, a forced change
This is one experiment that Rohit and Dravid were forced to make. If Ravindra Jadeja was fit, there was no place for Axar in the team, even though he was an honest tryer.
The two all-rounders, Hardik Pandya and Jadeja, would have been brilliant together for India in Australia, but it was not to be. Axar lacks the explosive element in his batting that Jaddu possesses, but to maintain the balance of the team, it will be very difficult for India to get him out.