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T20 World Cup : Allowing Rishabh Pant to have game time was really important : Rahul Dravid

Melbourne : After India wrapped up their Super 12 campaign with a 71-run thrashing of Zimbabwe to top Group 2 and set up a meeting with England in the semifinals of the Men’s T20 World Cup, head coach Rahul Dravid expressed that giving Rishabh Pant an opportunity to have game time through Sunday’s match was really important to keep various options in hand.

In Sunday’s match, Pant got into the playing eleven in place of veteran wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik, marking his first appearance in the tournament.Batting at number five, the left-hander played a flat slog-sweep off Sean Williams, but Ryan Burl ran full tilt to his left from long-on and flung himself to take a superb diving catch, ending his stay at just three off five balls.

“A couple of the things that we did want to achieve was to try and bat first if we got the opportunity. We needed to win the toss for that. Just because, honestly we had bowled first against Pakistan when we came here, we just wanted to experience what it was to sort of set a score in these kinds of conditions.”

“Also, we felt that if we batted first, it would give us an opportunity to play 20 overs and just get into that ability of still trying to get a par, par-plus score batting first. Then, sometimes it gives us the opportunity, as well, to play Rishabh, keeping obviously this game in mind as well but just keeping the future in mind, as well, just opening up our options.”

“Everyone is available for selections; just because somebody missed out on this game doesn’t mean that we can’t go back to him and we can’t decide on. We might go the same way. We might go a different way, as well.

We just wanted to ensure that we have our options open, giving Rishabh an opportunity to have game time, which was really important,” said Dravid in the post-match press conference.Pant had captained India in a five-match home series against South Africa in June.

But since Asia Cup, he has been in and out of the side as Karthik’s stunning returns as a specialist finisher coinciding with the youngster’s patchy form meant he wasn’t a certainty in the playing eleven. Ever since India arrived in Australia, Pant played practice matches against Western Australia XI in early October, making a pair of 9 runs while opening the batting.

“He was probably the only player in our team who hadn’t played a game after Western Australia. We played a couple of games in western Australia where he played, and then he didn’t play the practice game. He was supposed to play the second one and that got washed out in Brisbane (against New Zealand), and then he’s not played.”

“So we just wanted to ensure that he also gets some game time so that at least all of our 15 have got some amount of game time in both the practice games and this tournament. If we have a whole set of 15 to choose from, we’ll pick what we think is the best XI for the day against the opposition looking at the pitch,” added Dravid.

With many former cricketers baffled over Pant not being a starter in India’s playing eleven, Dravid was quick to point out that the Indian team think-tank had never lost confidence in the left-hander, who was putting in hard yards in practice sessions, as well as in the main squad.

“In a sense, it’s not that we ever lost confidence in Rishabh. We’ve got confidence in all of our 15 players who play here. It’s only 11 guys who can play, and it depends on the combinations that you have. The very fact that they are here and they’re part of the World Cup means that we have a lot of confidence in them.

It means that anytime they can be called on to play in the XI.””That’s really the role of when you pick 15 players and you pick 15 from so many other options that you have. That means you’ve actually got a lot of confidence in this 15.

Yes, you can only play 11 at a time and some people sometimes miss out and don’t have to play.””But again, Rishabh is someone that as a lot of you would have been seeing, would have been travelling with us, he’s been batting a lot in the nets, he’s been hitting a lot of balls, doing a lot of fielding practice and sort of keeping practice and keeping himself ready.”

Further talking about Pant not getting the big runs against Zimbabwe, Dravid remarked he won’t read too much into it as he perished while attacking the spinners and that the Indian team is not into judging players on a game-to-game basis.

“The opportunity came for us today to give him an opportunity and to play him in this game, and it didn’t kind of work out today, but absolutely I’m not bothered about that at all because I think he took the right option.

His role was to take on the left-hand spinner which was there, and sometimes it comes off and sometimes it doesn’t.””I don’t think we judge people on one game, and sometimes whether we play them or not is not based on one game.

Sometimes it’s just matchups, what we think would be something that we might need here or going ahead, as well, into the next part of the tournament; what are the skills we might need against which are the kind of bowlers we might come up against. So a lot of things go into these kinds of decisions.”




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