Batting continues to be a worry, but no place in the eleven for Manoj Tiwary!

Manoj Tiwary raises his bat after reaching his century in the 5th One-Day International against the West Indies at Chennai’s Chidambaram Stadium. That was his last ODI outing as he is waiting in the wings to get another chance to play for the country © AFP

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

As India made heavy-weather of a relatively easy run-chase against Sri Lanka during the second game of the Commonwealth Bank (CB) tri-series, their batting frailties were exposed yet again. On good batting surface with a fast outfield, the Indians should have overhauled the Lankan challenge of 234 without major hiccups, but that wasn’t the case. In two consecutive games, India’s batting has shown vulnerability at crucial.

 

In the first One-Day International (ODI) against Australia, India lost wickets in a heap and the plot after a promising Virat Kohli-Rohit Sharma partnership. The same pattern was seen in the second ODI against Sri Lanka as Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Kohli fell in succession. It didn’t affect the ultimate result as the Sri Lankan challenge wasn’t very formidable. In fact, the phenomenon of losing wickets in a heap was seen even during the ODI series against the West Indies at home. India lost half their side under a hundred in two out of the five matches.

 

India’s supposed rotation policy of seniors was met with surprise and intrigue. Considering the pattern of the first two ODIs, it is advisable that they stick to their strongest combination rather than experimenting and fiddling with their batting order as it may unsettle it further. If the seniors indeed take turns to rest, then Sachin Tendulkar may have to sit out of the next game. However, it wouldn’t be wise to bench him as he looked very comfortable out in the middle and his presence added solidity after the early loss of Virender Sehwag. But the burning question is: What is India’s strongest combination?

Sehwag’s form goes down under

Consider Sehwag’s scores since his arrival in Australia: 12, 8, 67, 7, 30, 4, 0, 10, 18, 62, 4, 23 and 10. These numbers clearly reflect his lack of form on this trip which begs the question. It is still premature to scrutinise his position as most of those numbers came during the Test series. As far as ODIs are concerned, he got that epic double hundred before the tour ofAustralia and this format may allow him to get back into his groove.

 

One can draw an analogy from India’s last trip to Australia. Sehwag was making a comeback into the Test side and was trying to regain his spot in the ODI team. In the last Test of that tour, he scored a brilliant century which gave one the impression that he was back to his best. However, once the tri-series began, he failed to replicate that form and made sporadic appearances in that series as the youngsters were preferred. Keeping the 2008 scenario in perspective, Sehwag would be wary of his performances and would like to score big soon. The double hundred may have come in his penultimate ODI but it was two months ago.

Is the think tank fair to Manoj Tiwary?

 

Considering the woes of the Indian batting, it is astonishing that Manoj Tiwary – the man who scored a hundred in his last ODI – doesn’t find a place in the team. It is almost as if the India’s champion batsmen are in form and it is difficult to accommodate the youngsters, which is not the case.

 

Furthermore, Ajinkya Rahane got a raw deal as he was dropped despite being impressive in his outings. These men are the future of Indian cricket and them not being able to make the cut is astounding.

 

Rohit Sharma, too, was subjected to the same fate during the Test series. His bided his time even as the Indian batsmen struggled against the Australian pacemen. As a result, he has come into the limited-overs segment a rusty player as he hasn’t had game time throughout the Test series. He may have scored a few runs but hasn’t looked convincing and is still edgy. Giving him a Test cap would not only have given him the exposure to the classical format but would also have helped him maintain his form and momentum. Remember, he came to Australia after winning the “Man of the Series” tag against the West Indies.

 

Players like Rohit and Tiwary need to be backed in this tri-series and given opportunities to cement their spots. Even if Rohit fails in a game or two, he shouldn’t be axed as he has been in majestic form throughout the season and it is only that long break that has affected his rhythm. It is only a matter of time before he gets back amongst the runs. On the other hand, benching Tiwary for the whole series and giving him a game or two wouldn’t help. He needs to be given a longer run to build upon the reputation he earned at Chennai.

 

If the senior players aren’t scoring runs, then the selectors have to take the tough decision of benching them and allowing the youngsters to play. They did it with Sehwag in 2008 and there isn’t any reason why they cannot do the same. He is the only one who may be feeling the heat as Gautam Gambhir and Tendulkar have scored runs. While Tendulkar has looked fluent, Gambhir is yet to regain his best touch. Then there is a Suresh Raina whose weakness against the short ball has dismissed him twice in as many games. With the competition raging for a few spots, he has to make it count to avoid warming the bench.

 

The lessons of the Test series should be learnt and the same gaffes shouldn’t be repeated. A Rohit-VVS Laxman style conundrum is ill-advised as India may risk losing the series and deny a tyro an opportunity to make a mark!

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)