India won the Asia Cup defeating Bangladesh in a thrilling final in Dubai on Friday, completing a tournament where they won every game barring the tie in the dead-rubber Super Four clash against Afghanistan.
However, there are still some questions around their middle-order composition with none of the batsmen setting the stage on fire. With Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and even Ambati Rayudu performing well, the middle-order options didn’t get much exposure barring the two chases, against Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the final.
Dinesh Karthik impressed in patches scoring 44 and 37 in those two matches, while Kedhar Jadhav too made handy contributions including an unbeaten 23 that helped India past the line on Friday. Questions surrounding MS Dhoni’s ability in the middle overs remain too.
Captain Rohit Sharma said the middle-order showed signs that they can handle pressure, but stressed it was too early to say if they have sealed their spots for the World Cup next year.
“The middle order didn't get as many opportunities as we would have wanted because the top order did the job in most matches. But whenever they got the chances, they showed signs that they can handle the pressure. They couldn't finish (matches), which is a different thing, but they handled pressure well,” explained Rohit in the post-match press conference.
“We pretty much have clarity on No. 4 and 6, they should get more games as the world cup gets closer. It's too early to judge or say they've sealed the spot. I shouldn't be saying that as it's not the time now. Come World Cup we'll have a clear picture. The next few tournaments will be ideal for us to judge as a management where they stand as players.”
Rohit said the key to extract the best out of players is to give them the assurance that they won’t be dropped after a short run.
“When we came here I wanted to give them the assurance first that they're going to be playing all the games. That's how you make players,” he said. “You need to give them assurance about playing freely without any pressure. If you know that after two games you'll be dropped, it won't be easy for anyone. It's important to keep the team consistent and that is something we spoke at the start of the tournament. I wanted to give everybody a fair run and play more games. That's how you'll understand a player's capability. You can't judge in one game.
“Asia Cup is a very big tournament. Yes, we lost the ODI series in England but we know we have a good team. We didn't play bad cricket there, just that we didn't finish the games there. Yes, a few senior players weren't available for this tournament but the guys here are talented too. They've performed well for their state or IPL, that's why they're here. They're good players.
“I understand that the guys shouldn't take pressure that ‘some players aren't here, so I should take the pressure and perform’. We want to create an environment where people just come and play freely. We don't think that this is an international match so they should change their game. As a management, our job is to give them the freedom to play the way they do in their club or domestic cricket at home. We gave a clear message at the start of the tournament not to change their games. Because they have the game. That's why they're here else someone else would be here. The message was very clear that there shouldn't be any insecurity.”
Rohit has led India to victories in the last two series he has captained – the Nidahas tri-nation T20I series earlier this year and now the Asia Cup. When asked if he was ready for long-term captaincy, Rohit said in jest:
“Absolutely, we have just won, so I am ready. Whenever the opportunity comes, I will be ready.”
The stand-in skipper then said he learns a lot from Dhoni, saying the former captain is always there to help with inputs.
“We learn a lot from Dhoni, he was such a good captain,” said Rohit. “Whenever there are questions on the field, he's there to answer. I've seen him captaining, he never panics. He thinks for a few seconds and then makes the decision. I also try to think and then react. We've learnt a lot from him, playing under him. He's always there to advice.”
Rohit was also lavish in praise of Ravindra Jadeja, who returned to the ODI side after more than a year and made vital contributions in the tournament, with bat, ball and on the field.
“When you're out of the team, you have the fire inside you, the burning desire to come back and prove to yourself than anyone else,” said Rohit. “I think he has proved to himself that he is much much better than what he was before. I clearly remember he flew the night before and played the next day against Bangladesh and got four wickets. Even today, he didn't bowl 10 overs but his batting and fielding abilities are very crucial. That run out was the turning point. That gave us a way to come back into the game. He knows that and as a team we understand what he brings to the table. His 25 odd runs (23) were as good as scoring a 50 or 60 in the context of the game.”