With England's Bazball the talk of the town ahead of the Test series, India captain Rohit Sharma is not too bothered by it and insists that his team is focussed on playing the brand of cricket they want to and not too fussed with what the opposition is doing. England have played an attacking brand of cricket ever since Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes came together and it has fetched them the desired results having won 13 of the 19 Tests.
“We look to play our cricket, and I am not interested in looking at how the opposition is going to play. It’s important that we look into our cricket, focus on what we need to do as a team, and take it from there,” Rohit said ahead of the first Test in Hyderabad.
Spin is going to play a huge role in the series. While England have announced three spinners in their XI, India could also take a similar route. While Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are certain starters, the question is - who will be their third spinner? Kuldeep Yadav or Axar Patel? Rohit reckons that this is a good headache to have.
“It was a bit of a headache to decide who it would be. I am not going to say who it is, and it was a challenge for us to decide as to who it is. Kuldeep gives you a certain X-factor with his bowling especially if the wicket gives bounce or not he still becomes a factor because he has got superb variations and he is a very mature bowler now. He has not played much cricket in India because of Ashwin and Jadeja and that’s what has even happened in the past also," Rohit said.
“Lot of us got our chances late but that’s how it is and that’s the reality it is, and you can’t hide away from it. Kuldeep is a much better bowler, and it’s a very tempting option. Axar with his all-round ability, gives us the batting depth and the consistency he has shown. We have quality around our spin bowling department and it’s a good headache."
Another bone of contention for India is to figure out who their wicketkeeper is going to be. Head coach Rahul Dravid had categorically stated that KL Rahul will not don the gloves this series despite a good show in South Africa. That opens the door for KS Bharat or uncapped 23-year-old Dhruv Jurel to stake claim.
While Rohit did not mention who will get the nod, he said that the player will be given a long run in the set-up. “We will see and assess their performance; we are looking at the bigger picture, and we will give as many games as possible to the individual. Whatever is right for the team, we will do that," the India skipper said.
Rohit admits they the team management was tempted to go back to Cheteshwar Pujara when Virat Kohli pulled out of the first two Tests. However, in the end, the decided to give Rajat Patidar a chance, which would give him the much-needed exposure.
“We did actually think about it [picking Pujara] but all these younger players, when are they going to get their opportunity? That’s something we thought about as well. Leaving out an experienced player and not considering them is very hard because of the amount of runs they have scored and the kind of experience they have had, and the number of games they have won for us. It is very hard to ignore all of that," Rohit explained.
"But you need to bring certain players into your set-up and give them favourable conditions. You don’t want to expose them on foreign tours where they have not played before. That’s the thought behind all of that. It’s important we try and get these youngsters in whenever there is an opportunity. But I am not saying the doors are closed on anyone as long as they stay fit and keep scoring runs, anyone will be welcomed back into the set-up."
Speaking of the gameplan for the upcoming Test series, Rohit said, “You need to have a game plan, and you need to back your game plan. Whether tight defence, sweep, reverse sweep whatever it is just be clear.
"Don’t be in two minds, as that is where you can get yourself in trouble and then understand your own strengths. We have grown up playing in these conditions, and it is all about handling the pressure of playing a Test match. We all play Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Irani Trophy but the pressure of playing a Test match is different.”
At the same time, Rohit also said that he doesn't feel that his side is unbeatable. India last lost a Test series at home back in 2012, which incidentally also came against England.
"I don't think we are unbeatable. We don't want to think like that. But whatever past records that we have over the last decade or so, [they] do not guarantee that we will come out on top in this series. We have to play well to win this series," Rohit said.
While Rohit felt for Shoaib Bashir, the 20-year-old off-spinner who could not make it to India due to visa issues, the Indian skipper on a lighter note, said that he does not sit in the visa office to give out more details.
“I feel for him. He's coming here with the England setup for the first time. It's not easy for anyone. If it were one of our guys coming to England, and the visa was denied [it would be the same]," Rohit said,
"Unfortunately, I don't sit in the visa office to give more details on that. But I hope he can make it here quickly, enjoy our country and play some cricket as well."