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India went into the all-important fifth and final Test match against England at The Oval with an all-rounder in Stuart Binny rather than another specialist batsman in Rohit Sharma. Keeping the manner in which the Indians surrendered in the first innings, some may argue that another specialist batsman was needed. However, Devarchit Varma feels it was the right call by the management to include an all-rounder.
If England put up a huge score in their first essay and bat well throughout the second day — which they are likely to — India would be facing a humongous task of saving the match. After all, a pathetic show with the bat in the first innings has put England in the drivers’ seat, and if they go on to put up a total of close to 400, India will find themselves out-batted in the game. While what transpired on the first day of The Oval Test was beyond reckoning of many Indian fans and supporters, it was important for the Indian team management to get everything right in terms of team selection, and the decision to exclude Ravindra Jadeja and Rohit Sharma to play Stuart Binny was indeed a correct one.
Why? Because India have not been served well with any number of batsmen they have selected for Tests on this tour. The problem of a lack of runs is not something that can be really blamed to the lower-order; it is a failure of the top-order in the Indian line-up. MS Dhoni has done an excellent job with the bat at No 6, but he is not someone who will always drop the anchor and bat for a couple of sessions to save his side. Dhoni can score runs, but not stay for too long at the wicket — something that is expected of the top-order.
Any side that has to win a Test match will have to score runs and take wickets. India have failed to do either since their win in the second Test at Lord’s. They still do not have a settled opening pair, their Nos 3 and 4 are going through a poor run, and the others are somewhat squandering the chances that have been given to them. Ajinkya Rahane’s weird dismissals in the last three Tests are a proof of that. So where does Rohit fits in here?
Rohit can bowl, but he is not lethal is hardly a wicket-taking bowler from the outset. He might send down the odd surprising delivery that may turn and bounce, but if India select him, they will be short of one bowler. By nature, this Indian side continues to be heavily reliant on their batsmen more than the bowlers, and with the likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara and Rahane in their ranks, India will only hope that these run-machines do their job properly and give their side the scope to play an extra bowler, as bowling is one department where the team struggles consistently.
As a batsman, Rohit had a tremendous start to his Test career, but like some other young Indian batsmen (Suresh Raina comes to mind), his real test was in overseas conditions. He averaged 11 in South Africa and 40 in New Zealand. But those were just two-match Test series.
He got a chance to turn things around in the third Test at Southampton where the pitch was excellent for batting, but the manner in which he got out in both the innings showed that Rohit has a long way to go in terms of playing in conditions where the ball is seaming and swinging. Rohit has an uphill task to barge into the top-order of the Indian line-up, and that is where he truly belongs. But performance should be given more importance than reputation. Another critical aspect that one needs to keep in mind is Rohit’s habit of throwing away his wicket rather than putting a heavy price on it. Any top batsman would be very, very strict with himself when it comes to his game, and would not allow himself to play irresponsible strokes on a regular basis to cut short his dreams.
Binny might not be the ideal choice, but he can be more effective with the ball compared to Rohit, who is, at the moment, struggling with his batting.
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)
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