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Winning still the priority for Rohit as India assess bench strength for T20 World Cup

India news

Despite losing the T20I series opener to Bangladesh, India captain Rohit Sharma said that the focus would still be on investing in youth and testing the team's bench strength.

India went down by seven wickets in Delhi, their first defeat to Bangladesh in the format. With the ICC Men's T20 World Cup less than a year away, the hosts gave opportunities to Deepak Chahar, Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar, Khaleel Ahmed and Shivam Dube, to test their bench strength, in the absence of some of their top players.

"You need to understand that this is the format where we are trying a lot of players," Rohit said, ahead of the second game in Rajkot, on Wednesday, 6 November. "The key players are not involved [in this series], so we are trying the younger players who are there in the lot, sitting on the fringe. Probably, that is one of the reasons, to be honest, because in the other formats, we have our entire squad playing the game."

Rohit also said that making optimum use of the opportunities handed to them in T20I cricket is what will tune the youngsters up for the longer formats.

"This is the format where these individuals can come out and express themselves, so that they are ready for ODI and Test cricket," Rohit said. "We have seen a lot of players who have emerged from this format who have gone on to play ODI and Test formats also. We want our bench strength to be as strong as possible."

Although India are seeing this series as an opportunity to continue with their selection experiments with one eye on next year's showcase event, Rohit said winning was still their priority.

"We have to win, that is the first priority. But these guys will learn from it. That is how all of us, including myself, and the other guys who started playing T20 format first and went on to play ODI and Test cricket. I think that is how it happens and, as I said, we just want our bench strength to be very, very strong."

The Rajkot T20I will be Rohit's 100th, but the batsman played down the milestone.

"It does not matter which format you are playing," he said. "At the end of the day, it is all about going out there and doing your best. Formats will keep changing. Right now, I am playing T20; in a few weeks' time I will be playing Test cricket.

"What is important is that I am representing my country and I have to go out there and do my best. That is what keeps me going, knowing that I am one of 1.5 billion people who has the opportunity to represent the country. That is what will keep me going for the rest of my career."

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