It was a dramatic and inexplicable collapse in the second One-Day International (ODI) and India have some thinking to do. Rohit Sharma’s outings aren’t encouraging and it is time Manoj Tiwary is given a go. Nishad Pai Vaidya explains why Tiwary should replace Rohit for the third ODI.
From a clinical performance in the first One-Day International (ODI) to a disastrous collapse in the second, the Indian batting has come a full circle. Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli had eased concerns of rustiness with sparkling knocks, but their early dismissals in the second game exposed the middle-order – which buckled under pressure. While the ongoing ODI series doesn’t have any real context, it is a fantastic opportunity to test a thing or two. With a failure relatively early in the series, India can introspect and make a few changes going into the games at Colombo.
Off India’s top six, five have recorded at least one significant performance in the two ODIs. Rohit Sharma is the only batsman who has failed in both the outings with scores of five and zero. For someone who has been labeled a promising talent for years, his latest failures (including the ones in the West Indies with the India A team) come as a huge blow. After the 2011 World Cup, Rohit had done remarkably well by winning India a number of games and had established himself as a match-winner.
In Australia, Rohit warmed the benches during the Test series – something that disrupted his rhythm. During the tri-series, he was supposed to be the beneficiary of the infamous rotation policy, but instead it edged him out of the team during the latter half of the tournament. In the Asia Cup, his calm knock helped Kohli maul Pakistan on route to a famous win. There have been various factors that have contributed to Rohit’s struggle, but his latest failures do not help his cause in any way.
In both the games, Rohit has been bowled and it doesn’t reflect well on someone who is so outrageously talented. The second ODI was the ideal opportunity for him to rise to the occasion and build an innings when India had lost the talismanic Kohli. This will again fuel murmurs - which suggest that he is only a domestic and Indian Premier League (IPL) wonder who fails to deliver on the biggest stage. Just when one felt he was ready to shed the dubious reputation, he is in danger of re-igniting the old debate.
Through all that, Manoj Tiwary’s exclusion continues to baffle one and all. The man who hit a hundred in his last ODI fails to find a spot in the eleven is astonishing – particularly when this batting line-up hasn’t been at its best for quite some time. In Australia, the rotation policy didn’t get him a game and he continued to warm the benches during the Asia Cup. The team management’s decision to play Irfan Pathan as an all-rounder cut him and Ajinkya Rahane out of the playing eleven for the first two games.
Keeping Rohit’s failures, it makes sense to replace him with Tiwary. It is time the Bengal batsman gets a chance to don the India jersey. His appearances have been sporadic and he certainly deserves a long run in the eleven to prove his mettle. Rohit may have done well in 2011 and his fifty against Pakistan may have reassured the selectors, but is difficult to ignore Tiwary. Both batsmen failed to perform consistently in the Caribbean with the A team and there isn’t much to choose if one considers those performances. Thus, it all boils down to Tiwary deserving this chance on merit and Rohit may have to make way for him.
However, Rahane would give Tiwary a tough fight for the spot in case Rohit is dropped. The arguments for Rahane’s selection are good – if not better than Tiwary’s. Like the other two young batsmen, Rahane didn’t have a good tour to the Caribbean and we have to go back in time to weigh in factors. Since his debut in England last year, Rahane has impressed with his sound technique and good temperament. It hasn’t been a smooth journey as he was axed from the team early this year. Although Chris Gayle’s exploits grabbed all the attention during the IPL, it was Rahane’s sparkling show that was appreciated the most.
The IPL performance shouldn’t be a criterion for selection into the one-day team, but his copybook style and disciplined approach tempt one to consider him. But, one gets the impression that Tiwary may get the nod considering the fact that he has batted at number four in the past. Rahane has done well as an opener and to play him the middle may disrupt his progress a touch. Tiwary, on the other hand, scored his only hundred at four and is accustomed to batting in the middle.
Rohit’s talent and promise may yet again push the team management to alter the scheme of things to fit him in. Tiwary or Rahane may come in at the expense of Pathan – who has played as an all-rounder and batted at number seven. The dramatic collapse during the second ODI exposed him early and he couldn’t support Gambhir in the cause. However, Pathan’s bowling performance in the first game was encouraging and dropping him would certainly alter the balance of the line-up. Furthermore, if the top six falter in the first 20 overs, one cannot expect number seven to contribute. Such things happen on the rarest of the rare occasions.
By the looks of things, Rohit is in a tight corner and the bench seems to be the most probable destination. It is time Tiwary is given a shot. Watching him on the sidelines has been frustrating for any Indian fan and one can only imagine his feelings.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)