ANI Photo | “We’ll just have to see the combination we can go with”: Coach Dravid rues Hardik’s absence in New Zealand clash

Ahead of the World Cup clash with table-toppers New Zealand in Dharamshala on Sunday, India head coach Rahul Dravid reserved high praise for the Kiwis while saying that the hosts need to go into the match with a team combination that best suits the conditions and the playing surface.
Speaking at a pre-match press conference on Saturday, the former India captain said, “Obviously, with Hardik not being there and Hardik being one of those four-seamers, we’ll just have to see the combination we can go with. We certainly can go with, obviously, the three fast bowlers or the three spinners. With that kind of combination, we still could play him and play Ash and move Jadeja up.”
The ace all-rounder, who walked off the field after twisting his ankle while trying to stop the ball with his foot, did not travel to Dharamshala with the rest of the India squad and is expected to return for the clash against England.
Coach Dravid said the team was considering “two or three combinations” for the New Zealand game, which Hardik would sit out.
“Many different, different permutations and combinations. I wouldn’t want to give too much away. I mean, we are pretty clear on what our playing 11 is tomorrow. But I wouldn’t want to be giving too much away. But yeah, I think there are different, different combinations we could come up with. Obviously, the three seamers, having someone like Shami sitting out there and bringing him in this game is a great option. In some cases, there is Ashwin who has obviously been sitting out, who has a great quality as well. So, there are two or three combinations we could use considering this till Hardik gets back,” he added.
“I mean, it is nice to have Ishan. And as you said, rightly, he’s been playing well. He’s a left-hander. But again, Surya has also come into some great form against Australia, as we saw. Played a couple of fantastic innings. Absolutely fantastic player against spin, as we know. Left arm spin or off-spin, or any kind of spin, for that matter,” he added.
Pointing to the depth and experience in the New Zealand squad, especially in the shorter formats of the game, Dravid said the losing finalists from the last World Cup in 2015 were playing “very good cricket”.
“Yeah, very good side. I will say that they are playing very good cricket. They play in India a lot. They played here. They come on tours to India a lot. A lot of their players have played in the IPL, so they’re very used to these conditions. A lot of experience in their team as well. If you look at their squad, we were going through their squad and obviously doing our strategy meetings, and they do have a lot of experience and depth in their squad as well. They are well-balanced,” the batting legend said.
Dravid stressed that the Men in Blue will have to play well and be confident of their skills and ability.
“So, yes, of course, a very good team and playing good cricket as well. So, we know we will have to be at our absolute best. But I think it’s really exciting for us as well because we believe that we are playing good cricket at the moment. So, it should be a really good contest and we know that we will have to play well but we are very confident,” Dravid added.
Conceding that the onus will be on bowling all-rounder Shardul Thakur to come good in Hardik’s absence in Sunday’s fixture, the head coach said, “Yeah. So, I mean, without going into too many specifics, and it’s hard to go into a lot of specifics in a PC, but yeah, I mean, Shardul clearly, his role was to be that kind of bowling all-rounder for us, you know, in the games that he played. In the games that he played, we saw him as someone who certainly has a happy knack of taking wickets as we have seen and then bowling those middle overs for us and being like a fourth seeming option for us on certain wickets which would probably require that fourth seeming option.”
“And plus, obviously, he hasn’t had a chance to really bat a lot over the last bit. But certainly, he’s been working very hard in the nets with his batting. And we’ve been working very hard on it. We’ve seen that he has the ability to hit some big shots and play some good shots. Of course, we’ve seen it more probably in Test cricket, but not so much in one-day cricket as yet, because he has not had the opportunity to bat much. But certainly, that was the kind of role he fitted in for us in that bowling all-rounders role,” he added.
On whether the team management was considering throwing in Suryakumar Yadav against the Kiwis, Dravid said ‘SKY’ could be an enforcer for the team in the lower middle order.
“And plus, the role may be for a middle-over role – so we will just have to see which one we want to – we are pretty clear about the kind of roles that people can play. So, if you are looking for someone who might be a bit of an enforcer for us in the lower middle order, then Surya is certainly someone who can do that. If you are looking for someone a little bit higher up the order, then maybe we might go with Ishan,” he added.
On whether dew could be a crucial factor in the game, considering the cold conditions in Dharamshala, Dravid said, “The dew factor is important. Dew is there here – there is nothing to hide in this. We are in Dharamshala, the temperature is cold so there will definitely be dew. And dew is a factor – but you can’t think much about it. Of course, you can make tactics and strategies according to that, but you have no guarantee that you will win the toss. So, you have to plan both. And it’s a good thing here. We have seen that the Netherlands defended against South Africa. Bangladesh chased the first match against them. But it was a day match.”
Invoking the Netherlands’s stunning victory over South Africa, despite bowling in the second innings, the coach added, “At night the Netherlands defended the score. So, it’s not like you can’t defend. If you have to bowl in dew, then you have to make a few more runs. You have to play positively and give yourself a cushion. And you can also bowl and defend. So, the toss is not in our hands. We don’t know if we’ll bat or bowl. Sometimes it’s in your hands, sometimes it’s not. So, you can’t decide that. But you should have the belief that whatever the situation is, we’ll try our best to win the match.”
With both India and New Zealand yet to be beaten in the ongoing tournament, the clash on Sunday promises to be an intriguing one.
The hosts will go into this game on the back of a commanding 7-wicket win over Bangladesh while New Zealand trounced Afghanistan by 149 runs in their previous game.
The Kiwis top the points table with eight points while the Men in Blue are in second place with the same points but with a marginally lower net run rate of +1.659. (ANI)

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