Cricket World Cup

Rahul Dravid backs under-fire India batter to turn things around

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Hit For Six!

India head coach Rahul Dravid has thrown his weight behind India's middle-order batter whose ordinary run of form has attracted criticism ahead of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023.

A day ahead of the ODI series against Australia at home, all eyes are still on India's star-studded squad for the World Cup and head coach Rahul Dravid cleared the air on one batter whose performances have been under scrutiny in the recent past.

Suryakumar Yadav, the No.1 ranked batter in the MRF Tyres ICC Men's T20I Batting Rankings, has failed to replicate his prowess in the shortest format in the fifty-overs' version. After 27 ODIs, he has 537 runs in the format at an average of 24.41 and a highest score of 64.

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Even with only two fifties in 25 innings and some glaring dismissals in the 2023 Asia Cup, Suryakumar found a place in the World Cup squad and Dravid backed it up on Thursday by expressing confidence in the middle-order batter's skill.

"We've picked our team for the World Cup and Surya is in it," Dravid stressed, hinting that there might be no changes in India's final World Cup 15 which teams have until 28 September to confirm.

"We made that decision to do that and we completely back him. We back him because he's got a certain quality and an ability that we have seen. Yes, I know we've seen it at the moment only in T20 cricket, but we know the kind of impact a player like him can make batting at six.

Rahul Dravid backed Suryakumar Yadav to turn his ODI form around
Rahul Dravid backed Suryakumar Yadav to turn his ODI form around

"He can change the course of a game,  so we've completely backed him.  We've been pretty clear about that.  There's been total clarity on the fact that we're completely behind him."

Suryakumar has three more ODIs against Australia ahead of the World Cup to build some form and Dravid hoped that he would grab it.

"We know that hopefully he'll be able to turn it around in these three games.  Again, he is someone who will get these three games,  and at least the first couple certainly,  to be able to again develop and keep growing on his journey as a one-day cricketer. 

"But in terms of selection, I think we've made our decision," Dravid confirmed.

Notably, the last time India played Australia in an ODI series, in March earlier this year, Suryakumar was dismissed for a first-ball duck in each of the three matches. It remains to be seen, though, if Suryakumar can use the series to squeeze into India's already crowded final starting XI for the World Cup.

Dravid insisted that the team will look to use the series against Australia to play batters in positions where they would feature in at the World Cup, also taking the example of Ishan Kishan as someone who could possibly play a dual role.

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"We can't make everyone bat in exactly the same positions because two or three of them are probably going to get into the final 11 of the World Cup," Dravid said.

"So, ideally, I think we will be looking to bat people in the positions that we think they might be playing the World Cup in at this point of time. Of course,  with someone like Ishan, he has been picked also as someone who can do both roles. 

"He has done the middle-order role for us.  But he is that spare batsman in the team who can bat up the order as we have seen as well. So, he gives us that flexibility apart from the fact that he is a wicket-keeper.  The fact that he can bat in the middle-order and he can bat at the top of the order is a nice flexibility for us to have."

The head coach also stressed on the long-term goal to find genuine all-rounders, but maintained that captains prefer genuine batters or bowlers over batters who can bowl a bit because of the two new balls in ODIs.

"If you notice, the number of part-time bowlers have gone down in other teams as well. It's not only in the Indian team. Partly, it is because of two new balls. You have got five fielders in the ring in the middle overs. It's becoming more and more difficult for part-time bowlers to bowl.

"It's not that they are not bowling in the nets. A lot of bowlers do try. They bowl in the nets. But if you don't get opportunities to bowl in the middle, then it becomes very difficult to develop your skill. More and more captains and coaches are wary of the rules. They will always look to play a genuine bowler in the mix because of the two new balls and the five fielders in the ring.

"Otherwise, they try to find genuine all-rounders in the team. But yes, it's something we are working on. It's not that we don't work on. We constantly work on it. We work on some of our bowlers being able to bat better as well. You are constantly working on these things."

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