Gearing up for the Kiwi challenge at the grandest stage of them all, Indian skipper Rohit Sharma credited head coach Rahul Dravid for backing players to the hilt in the 2023 edition of the ICC World Cup. Rohit, who was overlooked by selectors for the 2011 World Cup, has guided the Dravid-coached side to the business end of the ICC event. Under Rohit’s leadership, the Virat Kohli-starrer Team India recorded a perfect nine in the round-robin phase of the ICC World Cup.
Rohit and Co. registered impressive wins over Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the Netherlands to top the ICC World Cup standings. On Thursday, the only undefeated side of the ICC World Cup will meet Kane Williamson’s New Zealand in the first semi-final at the Wankhede Stadium. Speaking at the traditional pre-match conference in Mumbai, Rohit lauded New Zealand for being one of the most consistence performers in ICC events. Williamson’s New Zealand side edged past India in the 2019 semi-final of the World Cup at Old Trafford.
‘New Zealand the most disciplined team’
“New Zealand is probably the most disciplined team. They play smart cricket, they understand the opposition very well. They understand the mentality of the opposition. They have been very consistent playing semis and finals of all ICC tournaments,” Rohit told reporters. The unbeaten Indian side will miss the services of all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who was earlier ruled out of the World Cup due to an ankle injury. In the absence of Pandya, India had to tweak its playing XI for crucial encounters against the likes of New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
During the press conference, Rohit also gave head coach Dravid a special mention for giving unequivocal support to Indian players, who returned to the star-studded squad after long injury layoffs for the World Cup. Before becoming the backbone of India’s middle order at the World Cup, premiers batters KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer made their One Day International (ODI) comebacks in the build-up to the ICC event. While India added Iyer to spearhead the middle-order, versatile Rahul was roped in by Dravid and Co. as wicketkeeper-batter for the World Cup. Iyer and Rahul enjoyed a record 208-run stand to help India crush the Netherlands in its final round-robin match of the World Cup on Sunday.
‘We have to give credit to Rahul Dravid for…’
“I don’t have a mantra. As a captain, if you have decided this is how you want to play then you must have clarity. You have to back the players to the hilt. We have backed certain players whom we have given certain roles. We’ll back players and stand with them. We have to give credit to Rahul Dravid for buying into that thought and not shuffle much when it doesn’t come off. We’ll continue to do that in future as well. Role clarity and giving guys the freedom. One moment was when all four of us bowled and crowd enjoyed the moment,” Rohit added.