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India's captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli celebrate a Sri Lankan wicket during the Asia Cup 2023 at the R. Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on September 11. Image Credit: AFP

Mohali: Ahead of the first ODI against Australia, Indian head coach Rahul Dravid on Thursday said that Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have been rested as the team wanted them to be fresh mentally and physically for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023.

India will take on Australia in a three-match ODI series, starting from the first One-dayer at Mohali on Thursday. It will be India’s final assignment before the ICC Cricket World Cup at home from October 5 onwards. “It is one of the series, where you have seen that some of our boys are not playing the first two games. We will rotate our pacers a bit. It will be nice for some other guys that they are given this opportunity to play three tough games before the World Cup,” said Dravid in a pre-match press conference.

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“I think with people like Rohit and Virat, from our perspective, it is important that they reach the first game of the World Cup with the physical and mental headspace they want to be in. With the amount of cricket they have played, they know how to prepare themselves for these big games. A lot of these decisions are discussed with them. We discuss with them how they would like to prepare leading upto big events. Based on these discussions, we come up with these mutual decisions,” he added.

'Always in plans'

On the return of spin-bowling all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin to the ODI set-up after a year, Dravid clarified that the spinner was always in the plans.

“Having someone of Ashwin’s experience is always good for us. He gives you experience, the ability to contribute with the bat at No 8. He is someone we taught about in case of an injury or an opportunity opened up. He was always in our plans. He has not played much ODI cricket for a while, but someone of his experience can deal with that,” said the coach.

Questioned on Suryakumar Yadav’s lean patch in ODIs, Dravid said that the team management will continue to back him.

“We back him fully, because he has got a certain quality and ability, mostly in T20I cricket. But we know how much impact he can make at No 6 with the bat and change the course of the game. There is total clarity that we back him. Hopefully, he will be able to turn it around and will get these games to work on his journey as an ODI cricketer,” he added.

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Indias's head coach Rahul Dravid speaks during a media briefing at Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Change in rules

Talking about the lack of part-time bowlers in the squad, Dravid said that it has to do with the change in rules of fielding, as with times, there are now five fielders inside the ring instead of four.

“I think it could be because of the rule change, that you go from four fielders inside the ring to five. It has changed the ability of part-time bowlers to bowl in the middle phase. A lot of these players started (former batters like Sachin, Sehwag and Ganguly who could bowl) when there used to be four fielders in the ring. During that time, we and a lot of teams could use part-time bowlers.

"The list of part-time bowlers has gone down in other teams too. It is also because of two new balls, and five fielders in the ring during middle overs. It has become difficult for part-time bowlers to bowl in it. More captains, and coaches are vary of the rules and will look to play genuine bowlers/all-rounders in the mix because of these rules. We are working on part-time bowlers and bowlers who can bat,” said Dravid.

The coach agreed that the team, now almost playing at its full strength with the return of players from injuries, is ticking a lot of boxes ahead of the World Cup.

“When I started (As a coach), the focus was on T20 World Cup 2022. During the first year, the main players did not play ODIs because the focus was on Tests and ODIs. In these 2-3 years, there was less ODI cricket as well. In the Asia Cup, we almost played a full-strength side. We try to play full-strength team during big matches,” he concluded.

India squad for first 2 ODI: KL Rahul (C & WK), Ravindra Jadeja (Vice-captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Tilak Varma, Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper), Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Prasidh Krishna

India squad for final ODI: Rohit Sharma (C), Hardik Pandya, (Vice-captain), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, KL Rahul (wicketkeeper), Ishan Kishan (wicketkeeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel (subject to fitness), Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Yadav, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj.