‘We never want to be a team that relies on one or two individuals’ - Rohit Sharma focuses on building India’s bench strength

India skipper Rohit Sharma aims to create a solid bench strength for India, keeping in mind the ever-growing cricketing calendar and the injury setbacks that come with it.
“Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and all these guys will not be with the Indian team forever.”

India are currently in Zimbabwe for a three-match ODI series, beginning Thursday, August 17, but the prime focus lies on the Asia Cup 2022, beginning later this month and the T20 World Cup to be played in Australia in October-November.

India, unlike the ongoing Zimbabwe tour for which a number of their senior players have been rested, have named a full strength squad for the Asia Cup, with Jasprit Bumrah being the most notable absentee, having been ruled out with back injury.

India have fielded a number of youngsters on their recent tours of Ireland, England and the West Indies, and skipper Rohit Sharma has made it clear that one of his prime focus remains creating a solid bench-strength for the team.

“(Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohammed) Shami and all these guys will not be with the Indian team forever, so you have to try and prepare the other guys,” Rohit told the reporters on the sidelines of a promotional event in Mumbai on Wednesday, August 17. “Myself and Rahul (Dravid) bhai spoke about how we are going to create our bench strength because that’s going to be very crucial considering the amount of cricket we play, considering the injury factors and everything. 

“We never want to be a team that relies on one or two individuals, we want to be a team where everyone can contribute and help the team win on their own. We want to be that kind of a team and that’s why we want to give the youngsters as many opportunities as possible and of course, you have got senior players around them. They can be of good help.”

India’s Asia Cup 2022 campaign begins against arch-rivals Pakistan at the Dubai International Stadium on August 28. In the last meeting between the two sides - played at the same venue during the T20 World Cup 2021 - Pakistan registered a historic 10-wicket win, which was their first in World Cups against India after 12 failed attempts previously.

Rohit, who led India to their seventh Asia Cup title in 2018, looks forward to the upcoming tournament, wherein he marked adapting to the conditions as a key aspect.

“Asia Cup is happening after a long time, but we played Pakistan last year in Dubai, where obviously the result did not go our way,” he said. “But the Asia Cup is different now. The team is playing differently and has prepared differently, so a lot of things have changed from then. But for us, we need to assess the conditions, keep in mind the fact that we will be playing in 40-plus degrees. We need to assess all those factors and prepare accordingly.

“My thought has always been that we will not focus on the opponent, but we will continue to play our game. We played against West Indies, England and in both cases, we did not think about who our opposition was, but we focused on things that we had to do as a team and what we had to achieve. Similarly, in the Asia Cup, our focus will be on what to achieve as a team and not think about who we are facing – be it Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

“As a team, we are working on a few things ahead of the Asia Cup. We have to keep the process going.”

As for the T20 World Cup, the 34-year-old feels that his team is well equipped to go the distance, and the final selection calls would be taken keeping the Australian conditions in mind.

“There is still about two-and-a-half months left for the T20 World Cup,” said Rohit. “Before that, we have the Asia Cup and two home series against Australia and South Africa. So, more or less 80-90 percent of your team is set, of course there could be three-four changes if at all depending on the conditions. As of now, we have been playing in India and will play in UAE, so the conditions in Australia will be different. We need to check what suits our team in Australia.”