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India should give Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan longer rope in ODI setup

Rohit Sharma (left) and Shikhar Dhawan
Rohit Sharma (left) and Shikhar Dhawan are yet make their mark in alien conditions away from home © Getty Images

After the Indian team crashed to a 4-0 defeat against New Zealand in the five-match One-Day International series that concluded in New Zealand, the most glaring aspect of the defeat was the inability of the Indian openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan to convert starts into big scores. Despite scoring runs by the bucketful against teams like Australia and the West Indies  at home, both batsmen  have looked a pale shadow of the two batsmen that were not long ago being venerated as ‘World Class’ and the ‘New Generation’ of Indian cricket. Vineet Varma analyses as to whether the two batsmen are really a world-beating combination or will they just fade away into mediocrity very soon?

Statistically speaking, in five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against New Zealand both Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan flopped miserably. Rohit amassed only 145 runs at an average of 29. On the other hand, Dhawan accrued a mere 81 runs at an average of 20.25.  Rohit’s 79 at Hamilton was the only highlight of their less than impressive showing throughout the five-match series.

It doesn’t make for a great reading, if you consider the fact that not very long ago this very same duo was being hailed in the same breath of say the ‘Virender Sehwag-Sachin Tendulkar’ opening combination, especially after they had put to sword the visiting Australian and West Indian bowling attacks with some swashbuckling and fearsome stroke-play.

Coming to the series against the West Indies and it was Dhawan who shone brightly in the three-match series, as he scored 159 runs at an average of 53, his highest being a fluent 119 in the third ODI at Kanpur. Rohit on the end had a ‘quiet’ series as he managed 88 runs at an average of 29.33, his 72 at Kochi being the most notable contribution.

Circa to the series against Australia and Rohit took center stage that time around, as he amassed an impressive 491 runs at an average of 122.75, which also included that superb 209 at Bangalore that in turn helped India edge out George Bailey’s side 3-2 in the series. Dhawan too had a great series of his own as he hit two centuries, en-route to scoring 284 runs at an average of 56.80, and ensured that the opener’s spot at the top of the batting-order was his for the upcoming tours.

Fast forward to the series in South Africa, and all talk was of the ‘new Indian opening’ pair succeeding and heralding the start of a new era just before the tour started. But all the hype and hoopla over the duo’s previous success came to nothing as they were comprehensively outclassed by the South African bowling attack led by the fiery Dale Steyn and in the end, came a cropper in the three-match ODI series. Rohit managed a measly 37 runs at an average of 18.50, whereas Dhawan was even poorer, scoring 12 runs at an average of six.

The most glaring aspect of the duo’s failures in South Africa came during the first ODI at Johannesburg, where Rohit was done in by Steyn’s booming pace and late swing, and took 16 deliveries to even connect bat with ball. India went on to lose the match by a huge margin of 141 runs and immediate questions were raised about the pair’s ability to face a world-class bowling attack away from the batting friendly climes of Indian pitches. India went on to lose the next game at Durban too by 134 runs, where again the duo came up short against the Proteas bowling and got out cheaply without a semblance of a fight.

So, after the failures in South Africa, this writer wonders as to whether both batsmen should be given a longer rope, if their terrible record away from home is considered or should they be axed and the younger generation be given a chance to prove themselves? If you consider the following tour to New Zealand, both Rohit and Dhawan did a tad better than the South Africa tour, as they finished with 145 and 81 runs at an average of 29 and 20.25 respectively.

It has to be said that New Zealand bowlers aren’t as intimidating as Steyn and company were in their own backyard yet, some positives can be taken from that 4-0 drubbing that India suffered at the hands of home side.  Rohit showed glimpses of him returning to his old form of yore during the fourth ODI at Hamilton and put forward the case that he can do well in alien conditions.

So, should the opening duo be given another chance to redeem themselves after their poor run of form in overseas matches or should they just make way for a newer bunch of players to take their places in the Indian team?

After going through their recent records, this writer feels that both batsmen should be persisted with for at least another tour in overseas conditions, and if the duo indeed prove their mettle then their previous failures may just be counted as an aberration.

(Vineet Varma is a writer at Cricket Country. He can be followed @Vinfire19).

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