Opportunity for fringe players - Raina
The absence of several senior players for the upcoming tour of the West Indies provides an ideal platform for fringe players to shine on the international stage, Suresh Raina, India's captain for the limited-overs leg of the Caribbean tour, has said.
"It's a great opportunity for the youngsters who have done well in domestic cricket," Raina told the media ahead of the team's departure for the West Indies. "I am happy with the side, as we have some very good batsmen in Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, S Badrinath and Shikhar Dhawan, all of whom have done well in first-class cricket."
Raina, has led a similarly second-string Indian side in the past, for a tri-series Zimbabwe in May-June 2010, though India performed poorly on that tour, losing both matches against the hosts and one against Sri Lanka.
This time, India are without the services of Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and Zaheer Khan, who have all been rested, in addition to the ill Yuvraj Singh, and the injured duo of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir for the lone Twenty20 and the five ODIs that follow. MS Dhoni will take over the captaincy from Raina for the Tests, and Zaheer will return, but the other seniors will miss the Test leg as well.
Raina said he has learnt a lot about the art of captaincy from Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Dhoni, and was prepared for the challenge.
"West Indies have players like Gayle missing, but it will be a challenge for us," Raina said. "There's always pressure and we have done well under pressure. It's for us as players to execute the plans of the coach well. We have to play our natural game."
The tour will be the first assignment for India's newly-appointed coach Duncan Fletcher, who said he was a supporter of the rotation policy. "While I was in England [Fletcher coached England between 1999 and 2007], I started the rotation policy resting senior guys," Fletcher said. "I was heavily criticised by the English authorities. It's important to do that considering the heavy schedule. We need to look into the matter as we go into the future."
He said he looked forward to working with the youngsters, but cautioned against complacency. " Any team playing at home is difficult to beat. We should not be complacent. There is a lot of talent in India and my job is to prepare these youngsters.
"Yes, we would like to beat England in England and Australia in Australia. But the first job is the tour of the West Indies. It's very important not to look too far down the road. India have a plan to stay at the top. The young players have the potential and this tour will show the depth of talent we have."
He also said that the club versus country debate is something that just has to be dealt with. "That's the way it is in modern day sports. We have to ensure that all the players are fit enough."
India's tour of the West Indies kicks off with a T20 game on Friday in Port of Spain.