Ind vs Afg – 3rd T20I – Rahul Dravid on Rohit Sharma – ‘He has just shown what a class player he can be’

India head coach Rahul Dravid has strongly endorsed Rohit Sharma’s leadership and presence within the T20I setup after the side sealed a 3-0 sweep of Afghanistan on Thursday. Having begun the series with two ducks, Rohit struck his fifth T20I century in India’s twin-Super-Over win in Bengaluru.

The series marked the return of Rohit and Virat Kohli to T20Is for the first time since the T20 World Cup in 2022. Both had been rested from the format in the interim, with India’s focus in 2023 moving to Tests and ODIs with the year including the World Test Championship final and the ODI World Cup. With India now preparing for the T20 World Cup in June 2024, both Rohit and Kohli are back in the frame.

“Honestly, I think he was brilliant today,” Dravid said of Rohit, while speaking to the host broadcaster. “He has just shown what a class player he can be. We were 22 for 4 at one stage and even when I went in [at drinks] in the 10th over, the talk was always about being positive.

“Obviously, you had to protect the game a little bit [at 22 for 4]. You always have the mindset of going out and set the pace of the game, but in games like this, sometimes you have to hold back a little bit. You can’t hold back too much at this ground because you know you need a big score, towards the end, and I thought that level of hitting was incredible.”

Dravid was particularly impressed with the carnage Rohit was able to inflict towards the end. Starting the 16th over on 55 off 47 balls, he finished unbeaten on 121 off 69. India posted 212 for 4 – 103 of their runs came in the last five overs, and a record 58 in the last two.

“The thing with Rohit is the kind of range that he has, it’s hard to bowl at him when he’s set at the back end,” Dravid said. “You can’t bowl short because he’s really good with the pull, [can’t] bowl up and he’s got a great range as well. It’s really good to have him back, just his presence in the dressing room has been very helpful. Both Virat [Kohli] and him add a lot to this group.”

All through India’s run to the 50-over World Cup final in October-November, Dravid was full of praise for Rohit setting the early tempo with the bat. On Thursday, he lauded Rohit for pushing boundaries and bringing in new innovations into his game, like the reverse-sweeps, a shot he isn’t known for but unveiled frequently on Wednesday.

“We’ve been chatting about it,” Dravid said of India’s willingness to play some unconventional shots. “We’ve been talking to a lot of our players about opening up square parts of the wicket, looking to use the sweeps and reverse sweeps, and practicing them.

“It was nice to see that Rohit is again leading from the front in that department as well. Sometimes you play good spin, and Qais Ahmad is one spinner who spun it early on. To counter him, to recognise that going straight [down the ground] to him would have been difficult and using the square part of the boundary was really clever thinking.”

Dravid was equally effusive in his praise for Rinku Singh’s ability to adjust to different situations. Having played mostly as a finisher in his short T20I career, Rinku walked in to bat in the sixth over and remained unbeaten on 69 off 39 balls, and finished the innings with sixes off the last three deliveries.

Rinku now has 356 runs in 11 T20I innings at an average of 89.00 and a strike rate of 176.23.

“For someone who is just starting out in international cricket, just the maturity he’s shown, the calmness is terrific,” Dravid said. “We’ve seen him come in at the back end of an innings and finish games off, but today [Wednesday] to see him come in at 22 for 4 in the sixth over and to just build that partnership and show what he can do at the back end, it was very good for us to see that.

“When we have these conversations with him, he’s very clear about his skills, what he knows what his strengths are, what he needs to work on and how he’s going to go about constructing his innings.”

Rohit shared similar views on Rinku. He was particularly impressed with the batter’s “mindset” and said he had the potential to be the finisher India were looking for going into the T20 World Cup in June.

“In the last couple of series he’s played, he’s shown what he can do with the bat. He’s very fearless, keeps himself calm, he’s clear about his game plan and knows his strength petty well,” Rohit said. “He’s coming of age and is doing the job that is expected of him. Every time he gets an opportunity he creates an impression.

“Last 10 innings for India, he has done really well and that augurs well for the team going forward. We wanted somebody who could finish off games at the back end and bat with a very clear mindset and Rinku has shown that. The confidence is there in the guy. You saw how he played in the IPL and he’s carrying that through here as well.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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