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India coach Rahul Dravid says he is exceptionally proud of all of his players, singling out captain Rohit Sharma for particular praise, after the team’s run to the final of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.

India won 10 straight matches to reach the final on home soil, but were beaten on the day by an Australian side who delivered in all facets of the game to run out winners by six wickets.

But India’s head coach was still full of pride in his team’s efforts across the whole campaign. “We ran a really good campaign,” Dravid said. “I’m really proud of the boys, the way we played right through this tournament, the kind of cricket we played, just the quality of cricket that we played right through this tournament, I thought was quite exceptional. So really proud of the efforts, proud of everything that we gave.

“Just at the last step in the final we probably didn’t have our best game and credit to Australia. My congratulations to them. They played really well on the day and they were better than us.” Captain Rohit finished the campaign as the second-highest scorer, setting the tone at the top of the innings.

And out on the field his captaincy was notably excellent, with Dravid saying that he couldn’t have asked for any more from his skipper.

“I think he’s been an exceptional leader,” the coach said. “Rohit’s really led this team fantastically well, I think he’s certainly got the dressing room. I just think he’s given so much of his time and energy in the dressing room to the boys.

“He’s always been available for any of our conversations, any of our meetings. Sometimes there’s been a lot of planning, a lot of strategy that goes in. He’s always committed to those things. He’s given a lot of his personal time, energy into this campaign.

“And his batting as well, I thought it was fantastic, the way he set the tone for us. We knew that we wanted to play a certain way. We wanted to play a positive attacking brand of cricket. And he was very committed to doing that. And he wanted to lead by example. And 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.” A disappointing slide with the bat saw India go from 80/2 after the Powerplay in the final to 240 all out, struggling to unleash the shackles against an Australian bowling attack that kept things extremely tight during the middle overs.

Dravid said it wasn’t necessarily a tactic for India to slow down the tempo to the extent that they did, pointing to Australia’s excellence with the ball and the loss of wickets at key times as the reason that his team fell short of a target that would have been more competitive on the day.

“In hindsight, I think we fell about 30-40 runs short. It’s not that we were looking to bat it out. I thought they bowled well through that period. I thought it just 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 just felt like the ball came on to the bat a lot better in the evening,” Dravid added.

“We were rotating the strike, but we weren’t able to hit those boundariesThere was a conscious effort to try and take the game deep, but we kept losing wickets. We just lost wickets just when we felt that we built a partnership and we can start going. We lost a wicket, we lost Virat (Kohli), then we lost Jaddu (Jadeja) and then we lost (KL) Rahul. Probably felt that we were about 40 runs short.

“I mean, I know in the end it looked like they would have chased even 40 runs more. But if we had got to 280, 290, and they were 60 for 3, then it might have been a very different game.” India’s wait for victory at a major men’s ICC event goes on, with their 2011 Cricket World Cup triumph and 2013 ICC Champions Trophy success now seeming a very long time ago.

But, in contrast to some of the nation’s previous losses, Dravid says this defeat was not a case of the occasion or pressure getting to the team.

“I didn’t feel at any stage going into this game that there were any nerves or the guys were intimidated by the game or they were concerned about the game. I think they were looking forward to it we were excited about the game,” he said.

“I thought there was energy and the mental space the boys were in leading into this particular game was spot-on was terrific. Just on the day we probably didn’t execute, and Australia played better than us.”

As for Dravid’s future, he refused to be drawn on the subject at this stage. “I was completely focused on this campaign, focused on this World Cup, and there was nothing else on my mind. And I haven’t given any other thought to what happens in the future,” he said.

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