Rohit Sharma was part of the decision-making process that saw him bat at No. 3 against New Zealand, the Indian team batting coach Vikram Rathour has confirmed. With Suryakumar Yadav injured, India opted for the Ishan Kishan-KL Rahul opening combination.
Rathour said the change was tactical and was agreed upon by the team’s vice-captain.
“(To start with), it was forced. Surya was having some back spasms the previous night. So he wasn’t fit enough to be in the playing eleven. The person coming in was Ishan and he has done really well as an opener in the IPL and in the past with the Indian team as well. And about who took the call, the whole management sat together and took the call and of course Rohit is part of that group,” Rathour said at the pre-match press conference, as India take on Afghanistan in their third group league fixture at the T20 World Cup on Wednesday.
The batting coach elaborated on the fact that it was a tactical call. “It tactically made sense, having a left-hander upfront. And (also) because we didn’t want too many left-handers in the late middle-order, with Ishan, (Rishabh) Pant and (Ravindra) Jadeja. That’s why the decision was taken.”
On the face of it though, it felt like the team management was trying to shield Rohit against Trent Boult, given the batsman’s not-so-good record against the left-arm pacer – got out three times in T20Is – and on the heels of his man golden duck against Shaheen Shah Afridi in the first game against Pakistan.
However, Rohit dropping to No. 3 in a must-win game didn’t go down well with many pundits, including his Mumbai Indians head coach Mahela Jayawardene.
“You can be flexible. But not with your top-three batters,” Jayawardene told ESPNcricinfo’s T20 Time Out. “That’s his role (Rohit opening the innings) he plays in T20 cricket and Virat Kohli is either an opener or No. 3. I think KL Rahul would have been able to play that No. 4 role because he has that ability to change and adapt,” the former Sri Lanka captain added.
Until the home T20I series against England earlier this year, the team management looked at Rahul as a No. 4 batsman in the shortest format, while Kohli expressed his desire to open with Rohit at the T20 World Cup. The team management made a U-turn ahead of the tournament and promoted Rahul as an opener on the back of his excellent form in the IPL.
Rathour in the mix
His very good experience as India’s batting coach over the last two years has prompted Rathour to throw his hat into the ring again.
“Going forward, I have already applied for the battng coach’s job and if I get the job… there’s a lot of work to be done. Will take it as it goes,” Rathour said, calling his ongoing stint as a “learning experience”.
The other coaching staff, head coach Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun and fielding coach R Sridhar are moving on after the T20 World Cup. Former India skipper Rahul Dravid is set to replace Shastri as the head coach.