Dravid meant the team is willing to strike a balance between providing opportunities to players, even if it means resting seniors like Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, and winning while not obsessing over short-term results, given there are fewer than 10 games left before their World Cup opener against Australia in Chennai.
Resting Rohit and Kohli for the second ODI meant game time for Sanju Samson and Axar Patel. Samson will be tussling with Ishan Kishan for the second wicketkeeper’s slot, while Axar is largely seen as a like-for-like back-up to Ravindra Jadeja.
Samson managed just 9, while Axar, promoted to No. 4, scored 1. They were part of a middle-order meltdown that led to India floundering from 90 without loss to 181 all out. Dravid labeled it a “challenging wicket” where 230 would have been par for the course, but wasn’t fretting over the result, instead choosing to draw positives from giving back-up players game time in the wake of a scenario where their regulars – Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul – currently recuperating from injuries at the NCA don’t make it.
“Honestly, this was our last chance to be able to try out some of our players,” Dravid said. “We have got few of our players who are injured and are at the NCA. With a month to go for the Asia Cup, we are kind of running out of time in a lot of ways. And we’re hopeful some of them will be fit for the Asia Cup and World Cup. But we can’t take those chances; we have to try out other people and give them chances so that, in a worst-case scenario, they have game time behind them.
“It gives us an opportunity to make some decisions on players. We just felt in a series like this, with just two-three matches to go before the Asia Cup, playing Virat and Rohit honestly would not have given us too many answers, but with the injuries we have at the NCA and the uncertainty around them, we wanted to give some of the other boys a chance so that if required they can play.”
Suryakumar figuring out ‘how to bat in middle overs’
“Look, Surya is a really good player, there’s no doubt about it,” Dravid said. “His performances have shown that, especially in T20 cricket, even in domestic white-ball cricket. He has some very good performances. Unfortunately, he’d be the first one to admit his ODI numbers aren’t up to his high standards he’s set in T20s. But he’s also learning about one-day cricket.
“He’s played a lot of competitive T20 cricket through the IPL before he made his India debut, but in terms of one-day cricket he hasn’t played that much, there’s no IPL in one-day cricket. So I think he’s also learning, trying to figure out how to bat in those middle overs. He’s a talent, he’s a really good player, we want to give him as many opportunities as we can. Upto him now to take those opportunities and use them. But yeah, in the kind of set-up we are, we like to give people as many chances we possibly can.”
“I wouldn’t worry so much about Shubman,” Dravid stated. “He’s batting beautifully, he’s playing really well. He looks really good. It happens [low scores], you can’t criticise people after every single game. It’s not easy batting conditions, we needed to grind and fight it out there. We probably didn’t do that through the middle overs. But Shubman is batting well, he’s an important part of all three formats for us now, hopefully he’ll have a good game in Trinidad.”
Kishan, meanwhile, has been India’s best batter in the series so far, scoring 55 and 52 in his two outings so far. However, Kishan’s challenges will come especially when India revert to their regular top three of Rohit, Gill and Kohli. In such a scenario, he will possibly have to jostle for a middle-order slot, depending on how well Iyer and Rahul recover. For now, though, Dravid is happy with what he has seen.
“Ishan has done really well, this is his third fifty in a row now [across formats]. Again, he’s taking opportunities when given the chance. That’s all we ask from young players, we want to give them as many chances as we possibly can. We can’t give everyone a chance all the time, there are other talented guys as well.
“We try our best and give as many chances as we can. Today, to give people chances, Virat and Rohit had to sit out. Sometimes we might have to take those risks, take those chances in situations like that because looking at big tournaments, we need to build some of the players, get answers for specific positions considering the situation we are in.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo