Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav
Indian captain Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav in action against Sri Lanka during the DP World Asia Cup match at the Dubai International Stadium on September 7, 2022. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

India may not defend the Asian Cup. The Super 4 loss to Sri Lanka on Tuesday sealed India’s fate, and their dim prospects depend on results that are not in the team’s control. Skipper Rahul Sharma is unperturbed and is already looking at preparations for the T20 World Cup beginning in Australia.

At the post-match press conference, he said the team’s composition is nearly there. Sharma also revealed his keenness to have a six-option bowling attack and added the wicketkeeper would be decided based on the day’s match requirements.

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Will the two losses in the Asia Cup hurt Team India? Not at all, says Sharma. “Just because we lost two matches, why should we worry? We don’t have that feeling in the dressing room. We have played so many matches after the [T20] World Cup and won many of them. We lost two matches [in the Asia Cup], and I don’t think it’s a cause for worry,” he said.

Referring to the various changes and experiments on the team composition, Sharma said although the team is more or less complete, there’s still a window of opportunity to try some more players.

Team combinations and permutations

“It [the squad] is 90-95 per cent settled. There will only be a few changes. We wanted to try out certain things. If you look at our playing combination before Asia Cup, it was four seamers, two spinners, and the second spinner was an allrounder. I always wanted to try and find answers to what happens when we play with three seamers and two spinners, the third spinner being an allrounder,” he said, adding that they need this option when playing against quality opposition.

“We never tried that combination. So we wanted to try and see what happens. In hindsight, the fourth seamer [Avesh Khan] who was here was not available to selection for the last two [Asia Cu[} games as he was sick,” Sharma said.

The India skipper admitted that they still need to answer lots of questions, although some answers were found in the last three or four series. “There will be a time when we will draw the line and say this is the combination we are going to play. After this, we have two more series to play and then the World Cup [in Australia]. Till the team is announced, we can try a few more players,” he said.

Why India perform poorly in tournaments

The Asia Cup debacle came about a year after India could not qualify from the league phase in the T20 World Cup in the UAE. That begs the question of whether ICC tournaments are India’s Achilles heel since they cannot replicate the success in the bilateral series in several countries.

“There are no shortcomings; there’s quality in the team. We have won so many matches. In tournaments, the opposition is different for every match, and it calls for different plans. So the pressure is more. In a bilateral series, we play three or five games against the same opposition. So it’s easier to plan against them. This is a big challenge for us, and the team is aware of it,” Sharma admitted.

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But he hastened to add that it is not a worry since India have done well in tournaments in the past. If you look at the history of ICC tournaments, we have made the semifinals and finals. We have also won the finals. So it is nothing to be worried about. Of course, there will be pressure, and our job is to make sure the players can take the right decisions in pressure situations: about which deliveries to bowl or which shots to play.

The Pant-Karthik dilemma

The wicketkeeping slot has become a game of musical chair. Will it be Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik? Sharma refused a firm answer, saying the it will depend on the requirements of the match. [Against Pakistan and Sri Lanka], we just wanted a left-hander to bat in the middle [order]; that’s why DK [Dinesh Karthik] is out. DK is not out because of any lack of form. We always want some flexibility, and we will keep changing the players depending on the opposition. One or two changes in the batting will keep happening,” he said.