In 2012, India played a total of 17 One-Day Internationals (ODIs), of which nine ended on a positive note. For a team that had recently scaled the summit, it was a below-par performance. The openers seldom fired, the middle-order — with the exception of Virat Kohli — was not sturdy enough, and no total appeared secure with the frail bowling attack at disposal. Nevertheless, the line-up was rarely revised despite the team's shortcomings at the Commonwealth Bank Series in Australia and the Asia Cup that followed in Bangladesh. Introspection at that point would have been apt, but it was delayed once a series victory was registered in Sri Lanka.
India's recent performances in T20 Internationals and ODIs have been scratchy to say the least. Players struggling for form since a considerable amount of time are still being persisted with. It's well known that Mahendra Singh Dhoni backs his players to the hilt; the likes of Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh will testify to that. It's perhaps the same kind of potential that Dhoni currently sees in Rohit Sharma, however, the latter is yet to repay the faith shown in him. Despite averaging just 12.92, he has figured in 14 of India's 17 games in 2012.
Scores of 15, 0, 4, 68, 5, 0, 0, 4, 4 and 4 in the last 10 innings don't justify a place in the side, especially when players on the fringes are consistently knocking on the doors of the selectors. Manoj Tiwary has scored 214 runs in his last four outings in ODIs at an average of over 71, yet he was often sidelined. The fact that he's been ruled out of action for six weeks following a back injury in the ongoing Ranji Trophy does not augur well, but one wonders whether he'd have made the cut even if he was fit. Such has been his plight since the last many months.
Spectacular scores in Ranji Trophy
On the other hand, Rohit Sharma's struggles on the big stage are difficult to comprehend, considering his prolific run in the domestic tournaments. Every time he fails, he's sent back to the drawing board, and the rate at which he amasses runs there leaves the selectors no choice but to draft him back into the national side. Playing for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, he has registered scores of 79 against Rajasthan, 112 against Hyderabad, 203 against Punjab and 166 against Saurashtra. And these knocks were essayed just a few days before the short series against Pakistan commenced. Thereafter, he yet again fumbled in the blues, scoring just 10 runs in the three ODIs.
For someone with a First-Class average of over 61, the inability to get going when it actually counts is quite surprising. However, it must be taken into account that Rohit has carved a niche for himself in matches that last either four or five days. Therefore, to rope him in for T20s and ODIs, based on performances in the longer version, and to then discard him for Tests because he failed to deliver in the shorter formats makes little sense. Rohit has played 86 ODIs and 35 T20s thus far, but is yet to make his Test debut.
With the team in transition and new blood walking in, Rohit's inclusion in the Test side could be a possibility. Nonetheless, he will have to put up respectable scores beside his name at the earliest in whichever format he plays. He's fortunate to have been given an extended run and for the fact that he's still on the selectors' radar. Not many are bestowed with that. A few more false steps and he could soon find himself out of favour.
Meanwhile, Cheteshwar Pujara, who's been making great strides in Test cricket, has thrown his hat in the ring for a berth in the ODI side too. His unbeaten 203 against Madhya Pradesh in the ongoing Ranji Trophy seemed to convey a message to the men who matter. His first fifty in that innings came in a decent 88 deliveries, the second in 63, the third in 51 and the fourth in a staggering 17 balls. Agreed, one swallow does not make a summer, but an average of 57 in List A games is something that will not go unnoticed for long either.
With many worthy contenders constantly knocking on the doors of the selectors, Rohit Sharma needs to pull his socks up and live up to the expectations. Such talent does not deserve oblivion.
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)
First Published: January 3, 2013, 11:00 am