India captain Rohit Sharma is confident that young Rishabh Pant will use the upcoming T20 series against West Indies as an “opportunity to express himself” in the absence of the talismanic Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Dhoni, whose batting form has been on the wane, is not a part of the shortest format presenting Pant with a golden chance to consolidate his place in limited overs cricket.
Not to forget that senior pro Dinesh Karthik also get a fresh lease of life despite a career plagued by inconsistent form.
“Dhoni has been such a massive player for us, over the years. His experience in the middle will be missed but again Rishabh (Pant) and Dinesh (Karthik) have great opportunity to come and perform and show what they are capable of as well. It gives them an opportunity to express themselves,” Rohit told media persons on the eve of the game.
Even though India will be playing the T20 format, Rohit termed the three-match series as an extension of the ongoing World Cup preparation.
“We cannot go into the World Cup with limited resources. We need to have options. This gives you a great platform to try and test all these guys,” Rohit said, laying emphasis on the bench strength.
“It’s very important because the amount of cricket we play, at the same time we got to see what our bench strength is. The players we are talking of are possible replacements to come and fill in. We have to see the guys who are knocking the door and what they bring to the table.”
“Not just the 15 players we got to see what is outside the 15 players we have. There are a lot of new faces in the team,” he said.
India have named uncapped left-arm spin duo of Krunal Pandya and Shahbaz Nadeem, who returned with a world record List A figures of 8/10 for Jharkhand in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy.
“Shahbaz Nadeem has come in the team for the first time, Krunal (Pandya) was part of the team but didn’t play any games.
“These are the few names who have come and we got to see them what they have in their armoury for us to make the best possible squad in the World Cup,” said Rohit.
Talking about captaincy, Rohit said he’s a batsman first but overall he enjoyed the extra responsibility even as a stand-in leader.
“It has helped me overall. I have enjoyed captaincy whenever I have got an opportunity and it does bring in a sense of responsibility when you lead the side you always want to lead from the front.
Rohit has his priorities clear. He is a batsman first and then a leader.
“I do understand that more so I am a player first, then a captain. My job as a player of the squad is to go out there and do well for the team. Captaincy is something I have enjoyed for the last few years.
“I am still a stand-in captain and of course whenever I have led IPL team, I have enjoyed my time. It has made me understand my game a lot better and made me understand my teammates better.”
West Indies have been one of the better sides in T20 cricket and Rohit acknowledged that fact. The West Indies have beaten India in their four previous T20 encounters including the heart-breaking semi-final loss at the Eden Gardens.
“They are a dangerous team. They are one of the strongest sides in the world when it comes to T20s. We have seen that in the past. The way the approach this format in particular… We cannot forget all that as a team,” Rohit said on the eve of their match.
“They have more experience. It’s a format they enjoy the most and they have had a lot of success as well. They will be a strong opposition without doubt.
“It’s not going to be easy for us just to go there and win. We have to play our best cricket to beat them. The focus will be on our team rather than what they do as a team. We do understand what they bring to the table,” he signed off.