'Were not experimenting for the sake of it' - Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid doesn't grin at the word "experimentation" that has spread like fire during his tenure as India head coach. Particularly in the last 18-20 months as the selectors and the team management have tried to strengthen backup options in various roles amidst injuries while resting senior pros in a calendar with minimal breathing space.
Dravid has been accused of trying too many plans and not simplifying things for an in-transition Indian set-up. But the coach stood firm against such talks in a presser held on Tuesday (August 29) at the end of India's six-day NCA camp in Bangalore. Dravid insisted his team hasn't taken to experiments for the sake of it.
The coach reminded the very reason India had to cast their net wider in search of options in the build-up to the Asia Cup and the 2023 World Cup is the injuries to the side's key players. Five of them - Jasprit Bumrah, Prasidh Krishna, KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer - were all out of the scene together at one time and required respective surgeries.
Four of this lot have only just recovered, which meant Dravid had to control the controllables and rejig the plans in either department in the limited number of ODIs available at hands to make sure India aren't hitting the blind wall with their backup resources heading into a World Cup.
Rahul Dravid on 'experimentation' talk
To press home his point, Dravid cited the examples of India's preferred middle-order options Pant, Iyer and Rahul all three finding respective injuries together and being sidelined over the past months.
In such a scenario, the only thing in the hands of a coach is to identify backups and give them game time in the middle, which the side has to the likes of Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan.
"To be very honest with you, this word experimentation gets thrown around a lot without actually sometimes being thought through," Dravid said. "It's not that we are trying to sometimes experiment for the sake of experimenting. Sometimes there are specific reasons why you have to do certain things."
"Just to give you an example, the No. 4 and 5 spots seem to get discussed and talked about a lot. It gives the impression that we don't have clarity on who was going to be there, but to be very honest with you, I could have told you 18 or 19 months ago the top two-three candidates we were looking at for the No. 4, 5 slots. It was always going to be Shreyas [Iyer], KL [Rahul] and Rishabh [Pant] for those spots, right?"
"If you look back on some of the teams that we picked from 18 months ago, there was no doubt in our minds. Obviously, it's unfortunate that all three of them ended up with injuries in the space of two months. What are the odds of that happening? And I don't think we can, nobody can, calculate for that, especially with the limited number of games that we had in one-day cricket," he added.