Shikhar Dhawan says India are seeking complete mastery over defending totals, the ambition prompting them to make a "conscious" decision to bat first on winning the toss in a T20 World Cup year. Invited to bat, India scored 201 for six before crushing Sri Lanka by 78 runs in the third T20 International on Friday. Dhawan said that as a unit, the team wanted to bat first.
"Today we wanted to bat first because we want to refine ourselves more while batting first and winning more games, so that brings more confidence," the opener said.
"So that is why, consciously, we are doing it and the result is in front of you that we are winning even while batting first.
"We are making (setting) big targets and that brings a lot of confidence to us as a team."
The Indian team management is looking at trying out different players for the pivotal number three position ahead of the mega event in Australia later this year, Dhawan said.
India sprang a surprise when they promoted Sanju Samson at number three ahead of skipper Virat Kohli in the third match. India have tried six different players at the crucial number three spot in the last six matches. Asked about it, Dhawan said, "I'm sure the management wants to try players. Today also we wanted to try other players who haven't batted in the series and give them a fair chance because we're only left with five T20 (actually over 12) games.
"As a team, we wanted to give chance to everyone and that's why they've been rotating players. Till the World Cup comes, everyone is refined and know their job as well."
Samson, who just played his second T20 after 2015, scored just six. Dhawan was then specifically asked whether the move by the team management was to give every player game time or there was a plan B for the World Cup. To which he said, the idea was to give players more time in the middle.
"It is more to give players (time), like how Sanju Samson came in today (at number 3), then Shreyas (Iyer), so they can get more time in the middle, because it is a totally different field when you are batting in the match and having more overs and so that was the reason today.
"And last game was quite normal and before that I was not in the team, so I didn't watch matches as well and I didn't know what was happening. But today's one I can tell say that that was the reason.
"Even Manish Pandey went up. So they can have more time, otherwise same pattern going on," Dhawan said, explaining the management's rationale.
Even Pandey, who was warming up the bench series after series, played a responsible knock after being sent in at No. 4. Dhawan also felt that the series like the one against Sri Lanka was ideal for experimentation. "In these series, we can do the experiment, it is the best time to experiment and once we know that this guy is clicking, then we are going to go ahead with those patterns again because No. 1 2 3 we always know who is going to come.
"That is why it is important to experiment and we can take that risk right now like we won the first match," he added.
Back in the picture
"Toh picture achihi ban rahi hai abhi (the picture is looking good), khair yeh sardaredi meri nahi hai (but this is not my headache). So I don't think about it, because that thing is not in my hands. What is in my hands is to perform and play well.
"I am happy and satisfied that I got two opportunities and was able to express myself. Baki coaches aur captain ke upar hai, toh unki sardadi mei kyun lu? (Rest is on the coaches and the captain, then why should I take their headache)," Dhawan told reporters in the post-match conference on Friday night.
The swash-buckling Delhi batsman, however, feels being a left-hander augurs well for him. "Absolutely, that (left-hander) is an advantage because it disturbs bowlers' line and length and it has its own impact," he said.
Dhawan returned to competitive cricket after recovering from a knee injury he sustained during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He went through the grinds of domestic cricket, but the Delhi batsman maintained that making a comeback wasn't that difficult. "It wasn't difficult (to come back) because I knew I was injured and out for a month. And I accepted that I got injured and I couldn't do much about it. I was happy enjoying my time, doing my rehab and focused on training and got myself fitter and stronger," Dhawan said.
"In the latter half, I prepared myself at the NCA, then played Ranji Trophy and did very well. I have a strong mindset, I prepared well and focused on my process and I am just going to go and express myself," he added.
During his knock on Friday night, Dhawan got a life on one but he said it was a difficult chance. "I got dropped on 1. It was a very difficult catch because it went with pace and height as well. He (Dasun Shanaka) tried well. That's how I think. I don't think the other way," he said.
On Friday evening, Dhawan played fearless cricket and took more risks by stepping out quite often. "Yes, absolutely. That's my job and we've to take advantage of the first six overs (powerplay). Whenever I thought, I can dominate the bowler, I go and do it. To step out or stand and deliver, I do it," he said.
"Of course (Lasith) Malinga bowls really well against left-handers. He is very consistent with his inswinging yorkers and that's why I changed my strategy right from ball one. I was attacking him as well, rotating the strike. He wasn't giving me that many loose deliveries."
Dhawan lavished praise on fast bowler Shardul Thakur for his batting skills. Thakur played an eight-ball 22-run cameo to help India cross the 200-run mark after being sent in to bat on Friday.
"Yes, he (Shardul) is bowling well and the way be batted (on Friday) was amazing. The shots he played was tremendous and I feel he is becoming more into an all-rounder, especially in shorter formats.
"It is a big benefit for us and for him. I am happy for him and the team," he said.