India T20I captain Rohit Sharma has pointed out bowling as the biggest plus of the series for the hosts. He was also in praise of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, terming him as an attacking option for a team, especially in the middle overs.
India, under a new captain in Sharma and head coach in Rahul Dravid, beat New Zealand by 73 runs in Kolkata to complete a 3-0 series win, marking a good start in their preparation for next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
“Bowling was our biggest plus in the series. We came back really (well) in the first two matches after explosive starts by New Zealand. To restrict such a strong New Zealand batting line-up in the 160-mark is really commendable. We did well in all the three games. Whenever I go to the ground, I always want to think how many runs we have saved. And, in all the three matches we have saved about 15 runs and also had two run-outs on Sunday,” said Sharma in the post-match press conference.
Sharma had special praise reserved for Ashwin, who has picked up nine wickets since making a comeback into T20Is during the World Cup. In the series against New Zealand, Ashwin delivered crucial scalps while stemming the run-flow in the middle overs.
“I think it’s been a great comeback for Ashwin. He has proved himself with the red ball and even with the white ball, he doesn’t have a bad record. The way he has come back and bowled in Dubai and then two games here. It shows the quality that he has. He is always an attacking option for the captain.
“When he is there, the captain has the opportunity to take wickets in the middle overs. And we know how important middle overs are, you need to take wickets there.”
Sharma further spoke glowingly about the partnership of Ashwin with left-arm spinner Axar Patel pushing New Zealand on backfoot in the series.
“That’s where you need to put the brakes on the run rate, the scoring rate and try and keep taking wickets. So, I think Ashwin provides that to us in the middle along with Axar. Both of these guys are wicket-taking options, and when they bowl, it’s never about surviving for them. It’s about ‘how I can get the batter out, or how I can put pressure on the batter’.
“That’s what they come up with all the time. So, it’s always a good option for a captain to have someone like them in the middle, bowling those crucial overs and trying to put the pressure back on the opposition by taking wickets.”
Talking about the atmosphere in the Indian team, Sharma insisted that players need to be given a healthy environment coupled with a sense of security in order to perform to the best of their abilities.
“When you’re playing bilaterals, you need to tick certain boxes, and we are trying to do that. We are trying to create a healthy atmosphere in the team, trying to give players the security so that they can go out and play fearlessly. The first meeting that we had, we spoke of this very clearly to all the players that if you’re trying to do something for the team, that act will never go unnoticed.
“You will always be recognised when you’re trying to put up your hand and take the pressure on yourself and try to do something for the team. That is the job of the captain and the coach to tell the players that ‘we do understand what you’re trying to do for the team, you go and take your chances’. You tell them to take their chances, and if it doesn’t come off, you still back them because we know what they are trying to do for the team.”