India rumbled their way into the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup 2022; while the three other teams in the semis – New Zealand, England, and Pakistan – confirmed their semi-final seat in their last match, India had sealed a berth before their last group match.
While Rohit Sharma’s bat has been largely silent, the Indian captain has been brilliant as the skipper of the side as India finished with the highest number of points and wins – 8 points and 4 wins – across the two groups.
Here are the 3 factors for which India captain Rohit Sharma should be praised:
Stability in the XI, backing players
There was a lot of criticism and questions about Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid trying out dozens of players in the past year in the shortest format. But come the main event in Australia, the management had made up their plans and stuck with them, making little tweaks.
India has played 13 of the 15 players in the squad – Deepak Hooda replaced Axar Patel for the South Africa game because Axar wouldn’t have been used with the ball much because of 4 left-handers in South Africa’s top 7 and he was brought back in the next game; Rishabh Pant replaced Dinesh Karthik for the dead rubber vs Zimbabwe, with Rohit himself saying that they want to give Pant an opportunity and Karthik is likely to swap in the XI back for the semi-final.
Sharma backed KL Rahul after he had three single-digit scores in the first three matches despite the outside noise calling for Pant to replace Rahul as an opener. However, Sharma remained adamant that Rahul is the guy for him at the top; the result: KL Rahul cracked two entertaining fifties in the last two matches.
India have also made the bold call of benching Yuzvendra Chahal for all 5 matches with R Ashwin getting the nod. Keeping his 6 wickets aside, Ashwin has bowled at a tight economy of 7.5 while also adding batting depth, which proved vital vs Pakistan.
Pragmatic bowling changes
Being pragmatic about his plans, especially in the bowling department, was one of the key aspects often associated with Rohit Sharma’s success in the IPL with the Mumbai Indians. The 35-year-old has remained the same as the Indian team’s skipper.
A spanner was thrown in India’s works when they lost Bumrah and Jadeja to injury. Instead of making panic calls, Rohit remained calm and laid out simple plans: Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep with the new ball, the latter back in the death irrespective of if he takes wickets up front, for India need his form and skillset in the slog overs; Shami was recalled and given the hit-the-deck enforcer’s job, Hardik also shared the role with Shami and both have made crucial dents in the middle-overs.
Also, even when seeing left-handers in the top order in games vs Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Rohit has stuck to the new-ball pair of Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep and didn’t let the temptation of throwing the ball to Ashwin overcome his plans.
Ashwin has maintained on his reputation to keep things tight from his end and has been successful most of the time while only Axar, playing his first international series in Australia, has been off the mark. Nonetheless, Rohit has been almost spot-on with his bowling plans, none better shown than in the spirited comeback India made vs Bangladesh and also when they had South Africa on the ropes despite a par total.
Not afraid to make risky calls
There hadn’t been many opportunities for Rohit to tinker with his plans or make some shocking calls. He was needed to make it once: against South Africa when the Proteas needed 25 runs in the last three overs with one over of Ashwin still left.
While most captains would have gone two overs of pacers and bowled the spinner, the weak link in these conditions, the last over only, Rohit went a bit left-field and called up Ashwin in what would be a make-or-break over. Miller cracked two sixes, and it broke the game for India.
However, Rohit was up and ready to take responsibility for that decision, explaining that he’d seen Mohammad Nawaz bowl the last over to India and how panicky Nawaz seemed as his over was filled with no-ball and wides. And also, it needn’t need any mentioning from the skipper that Ashwin had a match-up over left-handed Miller.
Although the move didn’t go India’s way that day, the opponents now know that Rohit Sharma isn’t afraid of making bold and unpopular calls, something like this might even take the opposition by surprise in the knockouts.