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International Cricket

Confident India ready for Australia challenge

by Freddie Young 3 minute read

India’s confidence is sky-high ahead of their tour of Australia, according to stand-in captain Rohit Sharma.

Their first T20I is on November 21 in Brisbane, and the Indians will enter the ‘Gabbatoir’ on the back of a 3-0 whitewash of the West Indies.

After Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant scored match-winning half-centuries in the final T20I against West Indies, Sharma said: “It was important from the team’s perspective for the players to get some runs ahead of the important Australia tour.

“Shikhar was batting well in the ODI series. He was not able to get big scores. He was getting 30s and 40s, but I am glad that he could play a match-winning knock today and get some form under his belt before the crucial tour. Rishabh was also hungry to go out and get some runs. It was the perfect situation today.”

Dhawan is a key player for India at the top of the order

Sharma acknowledged the different conditions and opposition India will face down under.

“When you win a series like this, you are high on confidence and it is all about taking that confidence there,” he said. “Australia will be a different ball-game, and I completely understand that. But I think the things we have been doing as a team, we have to keep repeating the same thing we have been doing.”

India will be without MS Dhoni for the series, but Sharma is sure Dinesh Karthik will continue to be a capable substitute behind the stumps. There is no shortage of talent in that role, with Pant and KL Rahul also in the squad. When asked about Indian legend Dhoni, Sharma said that “MS [Dhoni] not being in a team is a miss for any team. But I have played with Dinesh in Mumbai Indians when I was captain. We understand each other really well. His thought behind the stumps is important, like any other wicketkeeper.

“Dinesh’s input has been important, on how the pitch is doing and the angle where the fielders are. Small little things like that. Dinesh has been helpful. He is also the skipper of one of the IPL franchises [Kolkata Knight Riders], and that really helps.”

The series against the West Indies gave India the chance to give Mumbai Indians star Krunal Pandya a run in the side. Krunal, Hardik’s brother, didn’t disappoint on debut, finishing with bowling figures of 4-0-15-1 and chipping in with a match-winning performance of 21* off just 9 balls. Sharma believes that “Krunal is a street-smart cricketer. He is never afraid of going and bowling to any batsman whether the batsman is set, whether it is a left-hander who is set. We have seen that when he played the IPL.” Sharma has been impressed with Krunal and “how he approached these three internationals. He has got a great ability to play for India for a long period of time, only because he can also bat. You have seen how he finished the first game. He came and played shots which were not expected from a debutant, but he is fearless, just like his brother.”

Sharma had more to say about the Pandya’s, and is grateful for their impact: “At the end of the day, you need characters in the team like Krunal and Hardik who are not afraid of expressing themselves. I don’t like to mention one or two players. All the players have different characters and, at different point of time, they have raised their hands and taken responsibility.”

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