Considered one of the best players in the T20 format, Surya was trapped by Australian left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc in the first two ODIs. The team management backed him and included him in the playing XI for the series-decider in Chennai on Wednesday, but he was again dismissed first ball, this time by left-arm spinner Ashton Agar.
“He (Suryakumar) played only three balls in the series. I don’t know how much you can look into it. He got three good balls,” Rohit said after India lost the third and final ODI by 21 runs to concede the series 1-2 to Australia.
“(On Wednesday) I didn’t think it was that great a ball. He just chose the wrong shot. He should have, maybe, come forward. He knows best.”
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Suryakumar has featured in 23 ODIs after his debut in July 2021, scoring 433 runs at a below-par average of 24.05.
Rohit said Suryakumar was initially slotted to bat at number 5 but the team management held him back to face the Australian attack in the last 15-20 overs. Suryakumar actually came out at number 7.
“He plays spin really well which is why we wanted to hold him back and give him the last 15-20 overs where he could play his game. But it’s really unfortunate he could only play three balls in the series. That can happen to anyone. The potential, the quality, is always there. He is just going through that (lean) phase right now.
“Once we played the first 10 overs, the ball did not swing at all. There was no question of swing where Surya could be troubled or anything like that. It was a tactical move. We wanted to use his potential at the back end along with Hardik. These two players would have been ideal for us but unfortunately they got out.”
“Didn’t want right-handers to get stuck”
Rohit also explained why Axar Patel came out to bat at number 5 ahead of Suryakumar.
“When KL (Rahul) and Virat (Kohli) were batting, they (Australia) were operating a leggie and a left-arm spinner. Surya was actually slotted to go in at five. But we thought the ball is taking some turn, and we didn’t want our right-handers to get stuck, which is why we wanted a left-hander (Axar).
“Axar, being in the form that he is, we wanted to ask him to go in and bat the way he does and take the spinners on. That is why we pushed him up the order. Hardik is obviously the best player at No. 6. We wanted to keep him there and then see between Surya and Jadeja, who we can ask to go before.”
The ploy of sending Axar at number 5, however, did not work. Axar was run out for two in a mix-up with Kohli.
Kohli (54) and Rahul (32) added 69 runs for the third wicket to take India on course of overhauling the target of 270. But quick wickets on two occasions put paid to India’s hopes.
“KL and Kohli were trying to stitch a partnership. When you see some kind of help from the pitch (to opposition bowlers), you got to understand that you cannot play shots every ball, you have to respect the conditions as well. They were doing that in the middle,” Rohit said.
“Having said that one of those guys should have batted longer and things could have been very different. The wickets of Kohli and Surya in the span of two balls put us back in the game, we were very much on the course of getting the target up until then.”
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‘It was a three-spinner pitch’
Rohit also defended the team management’s decision to pick three spinners in the playing XI, saying Axar’s presence bolstered the batting department.
“We have spoken about creating depth in our batting. So we played with three spinners. Looking at the wicket, I thought it is definitely a three spinner pitch.
“It’s also about match-ups and combinations the opposition is playing. I thought two left arm spinners will be ideal choice because I had not thought the Australians will make two changes.
“(Cameron) Green who bats at number 6 was not available as he was sick and I thought Maxi (Glenn Maxwell) will also play. So looking at the batting line-up they have got, six or seven right handers, we thought taking the ball away from them will be an ideal choice which is why we went with Axar.”
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‘India played consistent cricket up until Australia ODI series’
Rohit said the conditions were not “alien to us” and it’s about adapting to them and being fearless as well.
“Nine games is decent enough to analyse what we did right or wrong. We played consistent cricket up until this series. From the last two games we can understand what we need to do as a team against quality opposition, there are definitely a lot of things to look at.
“On this kind of pitches which turns a bit, it’s about understanding and adapting to the methods of scoring runs. Eventually you have to score runs no matter how the pitches are.
“If it’s swinging around, you cannot let the bowlers bowl at one particular spot. We have also to look at ways how to play better against spin if the pitches are turning. Someone will have to bat out of skin to take the team away from opposition and stitch big partnerships. That is something we will look at.”
(With PTI inputs)