India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni has always backed his team’s famed batting line-up which is their biggest strength in winning matches. However, Lalchand Rajput, India’s 2007 World T20-winning coach has a word of caution for Dhoni, as he embarks upon a journey to try and recapture the title after winning the inaugural edition in South Africa.
Zaheer Khan. File Pic/Suresh KK
Rajput reckoned India’s over-dependence on its batsmen could hurt the team’s chances in Sri Lanka. “Of course, we should bank on our strength, but we cannot rely too much on it every time. To say that our batsmen will chase any target is dangerous. Our bowlers too should look to win matches,” Rajput told MiD DAY yesterday.
Given Monday’s one-run defeat to New Zealand, Dhoni’s team should relate to what Rajput is saying here. The Men in Blue failed to chase down the 167-run target set by the Kiwis in the second T20 in Chennai despite having six wickets in hand. India seemed to be well on course for most of the time during their chase before unexpectedly losing the plot.
Rajput, who is currently coach of India ‘A’, said the narrow loss to NZ should serve as a good wake-up call for India ahead of the World T20 (September 18 to October 7).
“I wouldn’t look too much into the loss to New Zealand, but it was a good shake-up before the World T20. A win would have been nice, but competing in the World T20 is a different ball game. The atmosphere is completely different,” said the former India batsman.
Rajput said the fifth bowler will play a crucial role in MSD & Co’s fortunes in Sri Lanka. “The fifth bowler’s performance could have a bearing on India’s overall result. In a T20 match, one good spell can change the course of the game. We have some good performers for that role. Let’s see how they play,” he said.
The former coach urged Dhoni’s men to play without the burden of expectations. “They have to play freely without the pressure of any expectation. That is how they played during the inaugural edition of the World T20 (in South Africa). Nobody gave us a chance. There were many players in that team, who were new or making a comeback into the national side and were keen to prove a point,” said Rajput, who was however wary of choosing a favourite for the title.
“I don’t think there can be any favourites in T20. The Indian team has good balance and some very experienced T20 cricketers. The competition will be stiff, but I believe India, Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa should reach the semi-finals,” Rajput signed off.