T20 World Cup 2021: Jayawardena criticizes India’s decision to not open with Rohit against New Zealand

Rohit Sharma | GETTY

Former Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardena was surprised to see Rohit Sharma not opening for India against New Zealand in the Super 12 encounter of the T20 World Cup 2021. India had preferred Ishan Kishan in place of Rohit for the opening spot with KL Rahul.

At the toss, India captain Virat Kohli named his playing XI against New Zealand and shared that Suryakumar Yadav will not be playing the match because of a back spasm that he picked up ahead of the match.

Jayawardena said a team shouldn’t make too many changes in the top three as a stable top order gives the side a good initial tempo.

“You can be flexible. But not with your top-three batters. I think most teams if you take, you don’t have too much flexibility in that top three. They are settled. They are the ones who are going to give you that initial tempo, who are going to go about things. And then you have that guy at No. 3 who is going to glue things together and bat in both halves of the innings and the rest of the guys are the ones who will probably get floated in and around,” Jayawardena said on ESPNcricinfo’s show ‘T20 Time Out’.

“That’s his role he plays in T20 cricket and Virat Kohli is either an opener or No. 3. I think KL Rahul would have been able to play that No. 4 role because he has that ability to change and adapt,” he added.

New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi delivered with the ball and bagged the wickets of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli as India posted a paltry score of 110/7 in 20 overs. For the Blackcaps, Daryl Mitchell smashed 49 off 35 to help them chase the target in 14.3 overs with eight wickets in hand.

“In an ideal scenario, if India had a good start and had a settled thing, even Rishabh Pant could have batted No. 4 – given they [New Zealand] had a left-arm spinner [Mitchell Santner] and a legspinner [Ish Sodhi], he would have got more license to then play knowing that he had two-three batters behind him,” said Jayawardene.

“So rather than making all those changes they should have done just that subtle change – one in, one out – and then maybe one batter changing positions, rather than three batters changing their slots, would have made a bit more sense. Especially going against a very good New Zealand new-ball attack because it was always going to do a little bit in those three-four overs,” he added.

The Sri Lankan further said that the Indian batting unit looked unsettled which let the fear of failure get into their game. “Especially when you are going into a World Cup, you should have a steady, stable, settled set-up where everyone understands where if someone fails, that’s my role, to go in, consolidate and then kick on, get the tempo going again. I think that’s where India struggled. Especially having lost to Pakistan and then going into another big match, once you unsettle that, the fear of failure and all those thought processes creep into your game.”

India still have a slim chance of qualification in the semi-final by winning the last three matches, but they will have to hope for a few outcomes of other teams to go in their favor.

“They still have an opportunity. Anything can happen. And if they sneak through to those semi-final spots they are a force to reckon with. But if they don’t have a successful T20 World Cup, there’s another one coming pretty soon (in Australia in late 2022) and obviously, it’s an opportunity for them to look at some of the other options that they have,” said Jayawardene.

“We see a lot of young Indian players coming through, we’ve seen it in the IPL as well, in the big stage, playing with fearlessness. They bat just the situation, they don’t bat anything other than that. So that’s something you need in T20 cricket. Bit of experience and bit of fearlessness to guide you through those tough situations,” he added.

India’s next match is against Afghanistan, who won 2 of their first 3 matches. Afghanistan have a Net Run Rate of +3.097 and they stand second on the points table after Pakistan.