Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid have given India players more freedom and security, says Hardik Pandya

Hardik Pandya, the India vice-captain for the ongoing West Indies T20I series, has credited skipper Rohit Sharma and head coach Rahul Dravid for ensuring increased freedom, security and communication for the players, who are now “not looking over their shoulder.” Hardik Pandya added that Rohit Sharma wants the side to go away from what it had been doing for the past five-six years, under former captain Virat Kohli, and that is evident in their consistently aggressive batting approach after the 2021 T20 World Cup.

“Ro gives you a lot of flexibility and freedom which is his strength throughout his captaincy stint whenever I have played with him,” Hardik Pandya said after India took a 2-1 lead in the five-match series with a seven-wicket win in St Kitts.

“Here too, a lot of credit goes to him and Rahul Dravid for the way he brought the team together and made sure that a lot of positive mindsets come in and the players feel safe; They are not looking over their shoulder; ensuring that they are getting enough opportunities; They are also being told that if they are not playing then it is commendable.

Pandya said that a day ahead of the match, the team had a conversation about whether they should persist with their aggressive batting approach even on the slow surface at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts. The all-rounder revealed the captain had told the players that they would keep pushing and trying different things with the 2022 T20 World Cup in mind. One of the things India has tried is opening with Suryakumar Yadav in this series, and in the third T20I, Suryakumar blew away the hosts in the chase of 165 with a 44-ball 76 as India won with an over to spare. Pandya said that India had made opposition bowlers think that they would keep coming hard at them irrespective of the score.

“The way we are putting the bowlers under pressure, they are also thinking that this Indian team, even if they are 10 for 3, will not be ready to play 20 overs,” Pandya said. “It is wondering how can we even reach 190 from here. This attitude is making this team more dangerous and we will try to continue that.

“About the approach, credit again goes to Ro and the coach. We were all having a chat about how we should go about the slow wicket, do we still want to continue this style of play, and he gave us the freedom, saying that you know what, forget about the results, we are trying something new, we are going to make mistakes, we are going to learn from it, but what we have been doing for five-six years, we are going to go away from that and make sure that we try everything and all available options, and when it comes to the World Cup, we’ll know how to play.”

Ahead of this West Indies T20I series, Rohit had said that he doesn’t think India has been playing conservative T20I cricket for years, and the only change he made was to try to play the team with more freedom.

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