Frontrunner Rohit downplays Test captaincy talks; Ishan to open, 'KulCha' back in the mix

Indian cricket team captain Rohit Sharma during a practice session ahead of the first match of the three-match ODI series between India and the West Indies at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Saturday,  February 5,2022. (Siddharaj Solanki/IANS)

Frontrunner Rohit downplays Test captaincy talks; Ishan to open, 'KulCha' back in the mix

Ahmedabad, February 6, 2022

India white-ball skipper Rohit Sharma on Saturday said he is not thinking about the Test captaincy as of now and his focus is currently on the limited-overs series against the West Indies and Sri Lanka at home.

The 34-year-old Sharma took over India's full-time limited-overs' captaincy after Virat quit the T20I leadership role and was later removed as ODI skipper, too. The Mumbaikar is now also being looked at as the front runner for the captaincy role in the longest format of the game after Kohli quit the post unexpectedly last month.

"Let's leave the Test captaincy topic. I have no idea about it. My focus right now is to lead India in the three ODIs and three T20Is against West Indies. I am not thinking too far ahead and want to focus on the present," said the opening batsman in a virtual press conference on the eve of the first ODI against West Indies on Sunday.

Asked the same question again, Rohit reiterated, "Forget Test captaincy for now, there's time for that. Like I said, there is the WI and SL series for now to focus on."

The skipper also confirmed that Ishan Kishan will open the innings alongside him in the first ODI on Sunday. He mentioned that opener Mayank Agarwal, drafted into the squad after Shikhar Dhawan and Ruturaj Gaikwad tested positive for Covid-19, is still in mandatory isolation.

"Ishan is the only option that we have and he will open. Mayank was added to the squad but he is still in isolation. He came late and we have some rules in place. If someone is travelling, we have to put them into quarantine," he said.

"He has still not finished his quarantine, so Ishan will open the innings. Unless there's an injury as we have training today and there is nothing of that sort. Fingers crossed," he added.

Lack of wickets in the middle overs by bowlers, particularly spinners, was one of the reasons for India's loss in the ODI series against South Africa last month. And Rohit is keen to play the wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who have been very successful in picking wickets in the middle-overs in the past.

Between the end of the 2017 Champions Trophy and the start of the 2019 World Cup, Kuldeep (87 wickets at 21.74) and Chahal (66 wickets at 25.68) were the top two wicket-takers in all ODI cricket. So, they are likely to get the opportunity to rediscover their partnership and success.

"They are going to be crucial going forward. These two guys have been great performers for us in the past, they've certainly created an impact in those years whenever they've played together. In the middle, why they have been left out was because of combination," said Rohit.

"We wanted to get an extra batter in, at times we wanted to get an extra seamer in, so that is probably why one of the two have missed out, but it's certainly on my mind to get them back together, Kuldeep especially," he added.

However, the opening batter is also mindful of handling "Kuldeep's situation carefully" as he plots his way back into competitive cricket following knee surgery last October. The spinner is heading into the ODI series against West Indies having barely played any cricket over recent months.

"Kuldeep, specially, hasn't played since the last IPL, got injured there and was out since then. He hasn't played a lot of games after that as well. So, we want to get him in slowly and don't want him to rush into things, otherwise it cannot do good for the team and also for him," he said.

"It's important to give him some time, come into the groove, into his own and it will take a little bit of time. We don't want to put him into a situation where we are asking too much of him,'' he added.

The star opener said that the eam would try to take those steps, which will help them in going forward.

"Chahal obviously played in South Africa, Kuldeep has just come back into the squad now. Obviously, we want to give them an opportunity, but it can happen over the course of time. It just cannot happen suddenly. Kuldeep needs to play a lot of games to get his groove and rhythm back and we do understand that. Keeping everything in mind, we want to move forward and whatever is going to help the team, we will try and take those steps," he said.

Rohit also maintained that he needs to carry the team forward from where his predecessor Kohli had left and stressed upon making the players understand their responsibilities in the side.

"When Virat was captaining, I was the vice-captain. So, we went about the team in a similar fashion. I just have to take it from where he left. The team pretty much knows what is expected out of them, talking about the individuals. We want to continue with the same template. There is not much that we need to change. We are a good team and have good players," he said.

"It is just that on certain occasions, where we will have to change our game, no doubt about that. It's just that adaptability and being open to different things is what we have spoken of. It is not like I need to come in and change something drastically. I just have to take it forward from where he left and it is important guys understand the responsibilities, which is what I will be focusing on and giving them the clarity on what is expected out of them," he added.


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