The majority of India’s probably first-XI cricketers missing the ‘optional practice’ session on Friday ahead of their T20 World Cup Super 12 stage match in Melbourne did not go down well with legendary India cricketer Sunil Gavaskar. The former India captain came up with a strong response to the likes of Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, Yuzvendra Chahal, KL Rahul and a few others missing the net session. Captain Rohit Sharma, wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik, pacers Arshdeep Singh and Mohammed Shami, all-rounders Axar Patel and Deepak Hooda and travelling reserves Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Siraj were the ones sweating it out under the watchful eyes of head coach Rahul Dravid.
“I don’t know what it tells you but it’s something that I don’t agree with. I don’t agree with it for the simple reason that, at the start of the tournament, when you had your match (warm-up match) washed out, when you have come to Melbourne and had a day off, and then the next day, you opt not to practice?” Gavaskar told India Today.
The legendary opening batter said giving an option should be left to the captain and coach. And it should be a strict ‘no-no’ to give players an option not to practice right at the start of a big tournament like a World Cup.
“At the end of the day, those who didn’t come out for practice can turn out to be match-winners. But you want a rhythm going as a team. You want to see a sense of purpose.
“Giving an option is something I believe only the captain and the coach should be doing. Say, if you scored a hundred in the previous game and you have a small niggle, the captain and the coach can give you the option of not practicing and say ‘if you don’t want to come to practice, it’s fine’. Similarly with a bowler, who has bowled maybe 20-30 overs and feeling a sore shoulder or something, then the captain and the coach can give that bowler the option of not coming for training.
“Giving the option to the players is a no-no. There never ever should be that option. Only the captain and the coach should be taking that call. How many times it has affected Indian cricket is unbelievable,” Gavaskar added.
Notably, India’s cricketers have had a lot of time in between especially after their second warm-up match against New Zealand was washed out without a ball being bowled.
“At the start of the tournament? In the middle of the tournament, you are on a roll, you have done really well, you give everybody a break. You go to a cinema, go wherever to take their mind off cricket. But at the start of the tournament, optional practice?
“Maybe on the eve of the match, they might all turn up (for practice). But that’s not it. I want to show that solidarity of purpose ‘look we want to win. Tomorrow if it rains, what happens? Your practice is gone,” Gavaskar added.
Talking about India’s practice session, captain Rohit Sharma was the cynosure of all eyes. The experienced opener batted against left-arm seamers, trying to play as straight as possible perhaps keeping Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi’s in-coming deliveries that had dismissed him for a golden duck in the last edition of the tournament in mind.