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If the idea of rotating players is to keep Rohit Sharma away from pressure, singling him out as the reason behind India's openers' rotation policy will only do the contrary
Sidharth Monga in Adelaide
February 11, 2012
Two days after Virender Sehwag was left out of the Melbourne ODI, he let a cat out of the bag. When asked why he wasn't played in Melbourne, Sehwag said, "We are giving breaks to top-three batsmen. Maybe tomorrow is somebody else's turn. Either Gautam [Gambhir] or [Sachin] Tendulkar will have a break, and maybe I can play."
The next day, Gambhir was rested, and Sehwag played against Sri Lanka in Perth. In a press conference at the end of the game, MS Dhoni reiterated the rotation policy for the openers. Which, going by the way the captain and a senior player had spoken, suggested Tendulkar would be the next to rest. Now you don't ask Tendulkar to sit out. So the anticipation rose for the press conference before the match against Australia, in Adelaide.
On the day before the match, true to form on this tour, the Indian team sent out R Ashwin to handle another tough press conference. Poor Ashwin's response was to say he was not part of any selectorial decisions. He couldn't have said much more. He was not asked any other questions. The team spokesperson then clarified that the rotation policy was not set in stone, and that the first purpose of the side was to qualify for the finals.
That should put the rotation policy to rest, but it doesn't take away from the ridiculous reason given out for the system in the first place. The captain of the side, Dhoni, had this to say after the second ODI: "We are looking to give Rohit [Sharma] as many games as possible, and we can afford to do that in the first leg of the tournament." He went on to talk about how dropping or, to use a term in vogue, resting Rohit would put extra pressure on him, and that he should not be judged on a short sample.
Rohit should be so grateful for this favour. However, unless the captain has not watched matches that he himself has not played in, he will do well to know that Rohit has been Man of the Series in both of the last two ODI series he has played. Dhoni had been rested for both those series, in the West Indies and against the same opponents at home. During that period, Rohit won India three matches from the brink, and fell just short of another. All of a sudden, though, the team seems to be having to rest legends just to accommodate Rohit.
If the idea of rotating players is to keep Rohit away from pressure, singling out just him will only do the contrary for a batsman who has been made to believe through the summer that he is not good enough to get into a Test side that has been whitewashed twice. Especially when there is another batsman in the middle order who has managed to stay under the radar. Suresh Raina always gives his best on the field, which makes captains like him. He is also the man who seems to be officially given the charge of keeping the team's spirits up when on the field. He does that job well. He also brings value to the side with his part-time offspin. He was even made the captain of the ODI side when India toured the West Indies.
As a batsman, though, Raina doesn't seem to have evolved from the one first seen as an attractive stroke-maker. The same mistakes keep repeating themselves, most grating being the pull shot that more often than not lobs up in the air. To be fair to him, Raina often gets to bat too late in the innings, and has to go for his shots.
Starting with the West Indies tour last year, though, Raina has been anything but a finisher. He kept getting out irresponsibly in the West Indies, and here in Perth, especially when he knew Virat Kohli, the non-striker, had hurt himself during the chase, Raina played that limp pull shot again. At that time neither was the asking-rate was out of control nor were India running out of time. He believes it's only people's perception that he has trouble with the short ball. He possibly felt the need to challenge that "perception" by trying to get on top of the bouncer. He is not managing that at the moment.
If India feel playing Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir is the way to go ahead and realise their first aim, which is to make the finals, that is what they should do. If they feel resting one of them from each game is the way to go, they should not say it is being done for Rohit's sake because with his performance in the ODIs last year he has earned the right to be in the first-choice one-day XI at least for the first few games.
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