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Rohit backs Kohli, endorses new batting philosophy

For the second game in a row, Virat Kohli stepped out to bat with an uber aggressive mindset. After lofting David Willey over mid-wicket for four and straight back over his head for a six, he charged out once more and was caught at cover for a 6-ball 11. It followed his dismissal from Birmingham where he swung across the line to Richard Gleeson off just the third ball he faced.

In Birmingham, Kohli was in the middle of India’s slide that saw them go from 61/1 at the start of the PowerPlay to 89/5 a few overs later. Here in Nottingham, Kohli’s dismissal was part of a difficult PowerPlay that saw the team reduced to 31/3 inside five overs.

Rohit Sharma said that Kohli’s high-risk approach, a departure from his more conservative style of T20 batting, was in line with the team’s new blueprint for batting. Rohit confirmed that Kohli’s intent was both a personal decision of the batter as well as one based on the team’s needs and that his early dismissal both times were acceptable tradeoffs for the new batting approach.”It’s a bit of both, you know. We, as a team, want to play in a certain way and every player needs to buy into that thought process otherwise, you know, it’s not gonna happen for you,” Rohit said in his post-match press conference at Trent Bridge on Sunday (July 10). “And all the batters who are part of this squad are willing to take that extra risk and go and see what extra they can do with the bat. You know, it’s important to find out within yourself, to try and do different kinds of things and unless you try it you will never be able to find out. So I think it is something that we’ve been trying to do for a while now.

“And I have said it at the press conference at the start that some days, it might just come off, some days it might not. But we don’t want to be afraid of going and taking that extra risk. That’s how we’re going to learn as a team and that’s how we’re going to move forward as a team as well. So it’s everyone’s thought process and everyone is quite comfortable with that idea as well. So yeah, that’s the kind of direction the team is willing to move.”

Kohli is having to adapt to a new role in the middle of a prolonged form slump as India build towards another World Cup in a little over three months. His selection in the team was even questioned by Kapil Dev recently, who urged selectors to play in-form players and “not just go by reputation”

Responding to these criticisms as outside noise, Rohit came in support of Kohli, stating that the quality of the player was more important than the form. “It’s not difficult at all for us because we don’t listen to outside noise. Also, I don’t know who these experts are and why they’re called experts. I don’t get that,” Rohit said.

“They are seeing from outside, they don’t know what’s happening inside the team. We have a thought process, we make the team, we debate and discuss it and think a lot about it. The players [we pick] are backed, they are given opportunities. People on the outside don’t know about it. So it’s more important about what’s happening within our team, that’s important for me.

“Also, if you are talking about form, it goes up and down for everyone. The quality of the player doesn’t go bad. We should always keep in mind when such comments are passed around. We’re backing that quality. It’s happened with me, it’s happened with XYZ. There’s nothing new. When a player has done well so consistently, then 1-2 bad series, it [his contribution] shouldn’t be forgotten. It might take time for some to understand. But for us, inside and running the team, we know the importance. I’ll request those on the outside, yes you have all the right to talk about it, but for us, it doesn’t matter a lot.”

India lost the final T20I of the series in Nottingham but had sewed up their fourth straight T20I series win over England with two wins to start. The Indian captain acknowledged that while winning the series was a confidence booster, the easy embrace of the new ideology by all concerned was the biggest takeaway.

“The biggest takeaway has been the approach of each and every individual who has played this series. How they’ve relished the moment in the middle, taking on the opportunity, the opposition, taking that extra risk. The mindset is something we’re trying to change and that I guess is the biggest takeaway from all the players,” Rohit said.

“They are willing to do that, they are willing to take that risk. And when I go and talk to certain individuals or players and I hear the same kind of response from them, that is the biggest takeaway. Obviously while doing that, results will go here and there. We’re looking at the larger picture and to achieve that we’ll make some mistakes. As a captain, I’m pretty much okay with that. Honestly, to come here and win a series in England, it’s not easy. It was a challenging one for us. Winning always gives you confidence, and we can try to take that confidence and move forward and try to see how we can improve in all the departments.”

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