India's Rohit Sharma plays a shot
The decision to send Rohit Sharma at No.3 against New Zealand in Sunday's match has drawn a lot of flak already. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: It’s difficult to remember when did the Indian camp last wear such a desolate look since the 2007 50-overs World Cup the West Indies, when a star-studded team still exited in the league stages of the tournament.

The abject performance of Virat Kohli’s men in the first two games, which has now left them with a must-win situation in the next three games as well as look at the ifs and buts in their group, has put the team under enormous pressure - and the captain’s body language isn’t helping their cause either.

Barely a day after standing by his teammate Mohammed Shami for the trolls against the senior paceman, Kohli looked a different man in the wake of their demoralising defeat against New Zealand - the third time on the trot in a ICC tournament across formats. His scatching criticism of the team’s performance as ‘bizarre’ and the batters and bowlers not being ‘‘brave’’ enough has reportedly not gone down well with his teammates while several former greats had been particularly vocal against it.


Former captain and legendary opener Sunil Gavaskar said that by asking Rohit Sharma to bat at number three position, the team management was sending out a signal that the senior batsman was not technically equipped to take on the left-arm swing bowling of Trent Boult while Kapil Dev was hurt at what he found was ‘uncharacteristic’ comments by the skipper.

Vikram Rathour, the batting coach of Team India, was hard-pressed to explain the decision during the zoom media interaction ahead of their Afghanistan match on Thursday. ‘‘It was a call taken by the entire management and Rohit was also a part of that. What happened was Suryakumar Yadav was having back spasm and we decided to bring in Ishan Kishan in as an opener along with KL Rahul. It tactically made sense as we didn’t want too many left-handers in the lower order in (Rishabh Pant, Kishan and Ravindra Jadeja,’’ said Rathour.

It was, in hindsight, the right day for chief coach Ravi Shastri to shield the team at the press conference - notwithstanding his decision of stepping down after the World Cup. Rathour felt the team’s first priority now is to win the remaining three games and look then worry about how others are placed. ‘‘There is no point in taking the calculators out now. At this point, the idea is to win the three games. We are just looking to play well and then think for calculators,’’ he said.

Yes, we couldn’t do well in the first two games but it can happen with any international team. For the past two years, we have won most of the last T20 games

- Vikram Rathour, India's batting coach

When asked that the fearless batting, which Rathour promised when he took over as a batting coach after the team’s 2019 World Cup failure, he said: ‘‘Yes, we couldn’t do well in the first two games but it can happen with any international team. For the past two years, we have won most of the last T20 games.’’ Incidentally, Rathour admitted during the interaction that he had already re-applied for the batting coach’s position.

Throwing in his lot behind the batsmen, the former Indian Test opener said: ‘‘On this surface, it’s often difficult to rotate strike as pace and bounce are variable but we need to find a way.’’

What about the collective failure of the bowlers, who have just taken two wickets in as many games so far? ‘‘The dew dew factor did play its part, but yes, the execution could have been better. We also didn’t put enough runs on the board,’’ he said.

Asked about the chances of India blooding their young leg spinner Rahul Chahar in Abu Dhabi, Rathour said: ‘‘We haven’t really sat down with the XI. Let’s take a look at the wicket there.’’