It’s easy to lose sight of the present when the future looks so bright, so promising, and so tempting that you won’t mind skipping through the initial steps to get a glimpse of the illuminating skyline from the wide-opened rooftop. The abundance of talents, fresh from their heroics in the annual T20 extravaganza, symbolised the future, the skillsets that India need to galvanise their T20 machinery. 

A bowler capable of breaking the sound barrier, another who can squeeze the run progression with his left-arm wizardry, and another who never misses his yorker even if you fold a bandana over his eyes. All of them were primed to make a debut in the series. The clamour for their inclusion only intensified after India, under the captaincy of Rishabh Pant, ended up losing the first two games. 

Against such temptations stood a stoic wall, a strong-willed coach in Rahul Dravid who surely knows a thing or two about the role clarity and security play in the making of a player. Making changes after defeats were both an easy and convenient thing to do for Dravid — a default move after losing a couple of games. This is how cricket works, and has worked for such a long time. One defeat for teams is all it takes to enter panic mode, to chop and change in the hope that something works out. 

The same set of 11 men played all five T20Is. Perform or perish, whoever played in the first game had their spot secured for the rest of the series. And perhaps the turnaround from a deficit of 2-0 to stretch the series to a decider owe a lot to this philosophy. If you walk through the scorecards in chronological order, you’ll find ample stories of redemption. The players who were blamed for the crushing defeats turned up to square the series. Ruturaj Gaikwad started the series with a couple of low scores, but when push came to shove, he slammed a quick fifty; Avesh Khan was unable to leave his mark, and he might have lost his place to pacers waiting in the wing, but he reaffirmed his credentials with a four-wicket haul in the fourth T20I; Yuzvendra Chahal became the butt of jokes for performing in the IPL but tanking for the national side after bleeding runs in the first two games, but it was his three-wicket haul that helped India to open the account. The list goes on. 

“The team hasn’t changed over four games, so credit to Rahul (Dravid) sir. He gives chances to everybody and intends to give them a long enough run. He doesn’t drop a player after one or two bad performances because you cannot judge a player on the basis of one or two games. Everyone is getting enough matches to prove themselves,” Avesh said in his post-match press conference.

With a lacklustre performance in the first T20I, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was an easy target for many, given how he needs excessive help from the conditions to excel. The lack of pace too allied against him, and the team management might have told him that his time is up. Instead, they persisted with him, and it didn’t take Bhuvneshwar too long to vindicate his inclusion. His bowling was the rare bright spot for India in the second T20I, and signed off the series with six wickets in four games. His economy of just over six runs per over is even more impressive. 

“I’m playing for years now; my role has always been the same. Bowl two in the Powerplay, bowl two at the end. These things are always the same, but as a senior I always think about helping the youngsters. I have been lucky that the captain has given me the full hand and said do what you want. In that regard I have been blessed,” Bhuvneshwar said upon receiving the Player of the Series award. 

Another player who has now almost secured his place for the World Cup event in Australia is Dinesh Karthik. The redemption of Karthik is the most heart-warming thing to come out of this season’s IPL, and he has managed to translate that form to the international stage. Karthik explicitly stressed the role Dravid’s assurance played in his revival, stating: “I am feeling very secure in this setup. In the last game things didn’t go according to plan, but I went and expressed myself today.”

“Credit to Rahul Dravid; there is a certain sense of calmness. The dressing room is a calm place right now. It is important to learn to embrace pressure. It feels secure and fuzzy. That clarity and the environment helped,” said Karthik after scoring a match-winning half-century in the fourth game.

For players trying to cement their spot, a match or two is a minuscule sample size to judge their ability. The uncertainty of finding a place for the next game is the worst emotional state for a player to be in. “I don’t like judging people after one series or one game,” said Dravid, “the guys who got the opportunity here truly deserved the opportunity. They earned it. In this format of the game, you are going to have some good games and some bad games.

Featured Image Credit: PTI