India coach Rahul Dravid has described captain Rohit Sharma as an exceptional leader despite the team’s six-wicket defeat by Australia in the World Cup final that ended their 10-match winning streak in the tournament.
Batting more aggressively than ever before, Rohit played a crucial role during the World Cup by giving his team explosive starts in the powerplay overs to help them arrive in Ahmedabad for Sunday’s final as firm favourites on the back of a stellar run.
But he gifted his wicket on 47 to Glenn Maxwell’s off-spinners in just the 10th over and not even Virat Kohli could rescue India after they lost three wickets early.
“I think he’s been an exceptional leader. His batting was fantastic, the way he set the tone for us. “We knew we wanted to play a certain way and we wanted to play a positive attacking brand of cricket,” Dravid told reporters. “And he was very committed to doing that.
“He wanted to lead by example. I thought right through the tournament, he was quite superb in doing that. I just can’t speak more highly of him as a person and as a leader.”
India were reduced to 3-81 after Rohit made a 31-ball 47 and Dravid said the team fell 30 to 40 short of a competitive total as Australia chased down their target with seven overs to spare thanks to Travis Head’s magnificent 137.
“I thought they bowled well through that period,” Dravid said. “It felt like the ball was stopping in the afternoon a little bit more than it did in the evening.
“And not that there was a lot of dew, to be honest, but it just felt like the ball came on to the bat a lot better in the evening. There was that period where the ball was stopping.
“We weren’t able to get boundaries. We were rotating the strike, but we weren’t able to hit those boundaries.”
Red-hot favourites before the final, India’s campaign will trigger all sorts of calls for sackings and retribution after they went from unbeaten to losing on the biggest stage.
Dravid denied that they were overcome with nerves in the trophy decider.
“I won’t believe that we played with fear in this tournament,” he said.
“In this final match, we were on 80 runs in 10 overs. We were losing wickets. When you lose wickets, you have to change your strategy and tactics. We showed that in this tournament.
“They did a lot of good bowling in the middle overs. We lost three wickets. So, we needed a period of consolidation. But whenever we thought we’d play attacking or positive and go forward and hit, we lost wickets.
“If you keep losing wickets in the middle, then you have to rebuild. But it’s not like we started playing defensively.”
Dravid, who was tight-lipped about his future, said the team would reflect on their campaign after the dust settles.
“There were a lot of emotions in that dressing room. It was tough to see as a coach, because I know how hard these guys have worked, what they’ve put in and the sacrifices they’ve made,” Dravid added.
“That’s sport. That happens. And the better team won on the day. I’m sure the sun will come up tomorrow morning. We’ll learn from it. We’ll reflect and move on, as will everyone else.”