'It gives us the option of' - Rohit explains why Axar edged out Ashwin, Washington for Asia Cup
Rohit Sharma stressed on flexibility and overall versatility as key drivers behind India's selection calls made for the forthcoming Asia Cup 2023.
The skipper's desired ethos from his players and squad was reflected most in the choice of the third spinner as the selection panel firmed up another left-arm spin allrounder Axar Patel in a side balanced out by Ravindra Jadeja at No.7.
Axar was picked above off-spin variety that Ravichandran Ashwin and Washington Sundar bring to the table, and even pipped experienced wristspinner Yuzvendra Chahal in a contingent that is most likely to be the one finalised as well for the 2023 World Cup.
In a rare post-selection press conference held in Delhi, Rohit pressed home the larger point behind Axar edging out the trio mentioned above, insisting he allows the team different options and flexibility in the batting unit. The skipper said while the primary role is clear to each player, it's important their minds and skills allow the team a chance to send them in unique positions depending on the situation.
Rohit Sharma stresses 'versatility' behind Axar above Chahal
Not only Axar offers the left-arm spin option of relentless accuracy and control at his best in the mould of Jadeja but also presents the team management an opportunity to send him up the order to tackle specific match-ups with his left-hand utility. On a given surface, if he comes in, he anyway solidifies greater depth about India's batting unit at No.8. Likewise, Shardul Thakur in the pace department.
Rohit said Axar is the kind of cricketer he wants everyone within the squad to be - flexible and open-minded to play different roles as per the game requirements, a quality that would hopefully stand the test of times at what is shaping up to be the toughest and closest World Cup played in the last two decades.
"You need flexibility, guys who can step up at any position. No one should say, 'I'm good at this position or I'm good at that position'. You want guys to be able to bat anywhere, that's the message conveyed to every individual. Not now, but over the last three-four years," Rohit said.
"Where things boil down to is the batting option at No. 8 and 9," Rohit said. "Axar, you know he's had a good run this year, batted well in white-ball cricket. He didn't get much opportunity in red-ball, but played well in white-ball, especially IPL."
"He had a few opportunities in the West Indies but couldn't make it big, but with him being there, it gives us the option of having a left-hander who can go up the order and play spinners if required, and also create batting depth," he added.
Chief selector Ajit Agarkar was also present at the press conference and echoed Rohit's sentiments with a bit more clarity when posed with a counterquestion. When asked if the captain is asking anyone to bat anywhere and are we in for regular shuffling of spots, Agarkar insisted, "Rohit didn't say anyone can play anywhere."
"What he said is a player should be flexible in the mind," he added. "A player knows his role, where he's going to play, which over he's likely to bowl. A new-ball bowler will bowl with the new ball, or whether he can bowl in middle overs - those roles are set."
"But as the game or tournament evolves, you look at someone's form or the team's form, against whom you are playing, players should be flexible in the mind," he added.