Hardik Pandya has credited captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid for creating an environment which has allowed players to perform with increased freedom and security without “looking over their shoulders”.
Pandya, the vice-captain for the West Indies T20I series, didn’t say it in as many words but those in the know of things agreed that some players are feeling more comfortable than they had in the previous regime commanded by Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli.
“Ro (Rohit) gives you a lot of flexibility and freedom which has been his strength throughout his captaincy stint whenever I have played with him,” Hardik said after India took a 2-1 lead in the five-match series with a seven-wicket win in St Kitts on Tuesday. “Here as well, a lot of credit goes to him and Rahul Dravid (for) the way they have got the team together and making sure a lot of positive mindset comes in. Players are feeling secure… they are not looking over their shoulders, making sure they are getting ample chances. They are getting told as well if they are not playing, and that is something which is commendable.”
Veteran Dinesh Karthik also spoke on similar lines about feeling “secure” in this set-up during the home T20I series against South Africa. It is this clarity of role that has helped in enhancing their performance. Youngsters like Harshal Patel, Avesh Khan and Ishan Kishan are being given enough opportunities to perform. None of the players can now complain that they have been dumped unceremoniously.
The same didn’t apply during the Shastri-Kohli regime. Even a senior like Ravichandran Ashwin was thrown out after the Champions Trophy in 2017 and was never considered for limited overs games before the last T20 World Cup. Kuldeep Yadav received similar step-motherly treatment after the 2019 World Cup. Umesh Yadav was never considered a Test regular, his remarkable record in 2017 notwithstanding.
Pandya said that a day ahead of the third T20I, there was a team meeting on whether they should persist with their aggressive batting. “The way we are putting bowlers under pressure, even they are thinking that this Indian team, even if it is 10 for 3, will not look to play out the 20 overs,” Pandya said.
“It is thinking that how can we reach 190 even from here. That attitude is making this team look more dangerous, and we will try to continue that. About the approach, credit again goes to Ro and the coach. We were all having a chat about how we should go about the slow wicket, do we still want to continue this style of play… “He gave us the freedom, saying that you know what, forget about the results, we are trying something new, we are going to make mistakes, we are going to learn from them, but what we have been doing for five-six years, we are going to go away from that, and make sure that we try everything and all options that are available, and when it comes to the World Cup, we’ll know how to play,” Pandya said.