Harbhajan wants ‘better suited’ Nehra to coach India’s T20I side

“I am not saying you remove Rahul from T20; Ashish and Rahul can work together to build this team for the 2024 World Cup”

Gujarat Titans head coach Ashish Nehra and captain Hardik Pandya have a look at the Pune pitch, Gujarat Titans vs Delhi Capitals, IPL 2022, Pune, April 2, 2022

Ashish Nehra was the coach when Hardik Pandya’s Gujarat Titans won IPL 2022  •  BCCI

Different India teams for the different formats – that’s been discussed. Harbhajan Singh feels a different coach for T20Is, like England had with Matthew Mott in their run to the T20 World Cup title recently, is the way to go for India, and the man for the job, in his opinion, is Ashish Nehra.

“He knows this [T20 cricket] better than” Rahul Dravid, the all-format India coach, Harbhajan feels.

“In T20 format you can have someone like Ashish Nehra who recently retired from the game,” Harbhajan told PTI in Abu Dhabi, where he is a part of the Delhi Bulls line-up for the T10 league. “He [Nehra] knows this better than – with all due respect – Rahul.

“We [Dravid and he] have played together for so many years; he has vast knowledge, but this is a tricky format. Someone who has played the game more recently is better suited for the coaching job in T20s. I am not saying you remove Rahul from T20; Ashish and Rahul can work together to build this team for the 2024 World Cup.”

Dravid played his last representative match in T20s in October 2013, while Nehra finished up in November 2017. he has since turned to coaching, and was in charge of the back room at Gujarat Titans in the IPL earlier this year, when they won the tournament in their first season.

“With such an arrangement [split coaching], it is easy for Rahul as well, who can take a break as well like he did for New Zealand tour and Ashish can do the job in his absence,” Harbhajan said. On the ongoing New Zealand tour, where India won the T20I series, VVS Laxman has filled in for Dravid.

‘The approach has to change in the T20 format’

At the recent T20 World Cup, where India exited in the semi-finals after a ten-wicket loss to England, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, the openers, scored 116 and 128 runs respectively, scoring at strikes rates of 106.42 and 120.75. Virat Kohli, at No. 3, was much more impressive, topping the overall scoring chart for the tournament with 296 runs at a strike rate of 136.40. But he, too, failed to up the tempo at times, and there have been suggestions that India need to take a serious look at their top three.

“The approach has to change in the T20 format,” Harbhajan said. “The first six overs are important. If that doesn’t happen, you will be depended on Hardik [Pandya] or Surya [Suryakumar Yadav] for scoring 50 off 20. If they don’t fire, you will end up with a below-par total.

“England changed their approach and they have won two World Cups [including the 2019 ODI World Cup]. T20 has to be played like T20 not like ODIs.”

Talking specifically about the trio of Rohit, Rahul and Kohli, Harbhajan said, “All the top three need to do is increase their strike rate. It is tough when you bat at 110 or 120 strike and try to make 180. They have to score at least nine runs per over in the first 10-12 overs.

“I am no one to comment whether they would want to play [T20Is] or not. They are quality players. If they can remain fit, why not, provided the approach is different. Players can’t be changed overnight, the approach has to change.”

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