India vs Zimbabwe 2013: India should mull changes for 3rd ODI

Suresh Raina (left) and Ravindra Jadeja can be rested for the third ODI against Zimbabwe since they are established players in the team © Getty Images

The series may still be up for grabs, but Nishad Pai Vaidya argues that this is the best chance to blood youngsters and rest some of the more experienced players.

How does one manage a side full of tyros waiting to showcase their talent? While there is a burning desire to win a competition, there is also an urge to test some promising players. India have won the first two One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against Zimbabwe and would target a third victory to clinch the series. Although the series is still up for grabs, this is the ideal time to blood Cheteshwar Pujara or Parvez Rasool, as leaving it for later may be a little too late.

During the 2010 tour to Zimbabwe, India went in with a similar side — under-strength and without the big names. However, they faltered in their approach during the tri-series and failed to make to the final. On that tour they handed debuts to six players, two of whom have since vanished from the national radar. Pankaj Singh and Naman Ojha were summoned to play the final ODI, but did not make an impression in that outing. Three years on, they are still waiting for their next one-day call-up.

What this example tells us is that giving players a run in inconsequential games can backfire big time. If they perform, then well and good as they would be considered for future series. However, if they fail, the axe would fall upon them with the more established players coming in. Pankaj, who is one of leading bowlers in domestic cricket, suffered as a result and despite consistent performances for Rajasthan, he hasn’t been recalled. India cannot risk losing good players as they build a pool for the 2015 World Cup. Thus, Pujara, Rasool and even Mohit Sharma should be given more than a game to prove their one-day credentials.

Pujara was a strong contender for a spot in the playing eleven, but Ambati Rayudu beat him in the race and played the first two games. Rayudu’s impressive performance in the first ODI has booked his spot and he deserves a long run. However, Pujara can still come in place of a Suresh Raina or even a Rohit Sharma, who have established themselves in the line-up. They can be given a breather for Pujara to come in.

Similarly, Rasool can replace Ravindra Jadeja. The Saurashtra all-rounder has been the talisman for India’s success in recent times and there would be an unmistakable reluctance to bench him. But, he can be rested in favour of Rasool as Jadeja has firmly cemented his spot in the playing eleven. Rasool is an effective off-spinner and can also wield his willow. India cannot solely rely on Jadeja and need a back-up for him as the need may arise anytime. It looks like Rasool was picked with the intent of grooming another all-rounder for the one-day side and he should be accorded opportunities in that regard.

When compared to the rest, Ajinkya Rahane’s case is peculiar. He has been in India’s squad for almost two years and there have been times when he hasn’t had a fair deal. It was almost as if he had one spot on the bench firmly reserved for him with the odd game coming his way. Ideally, he should have been ahead of Pujara and Rayudu in the pecking order, but the former’s success in Test cricket may persuade the team management to hand him an ODI debut.

If India want to make a change or two, to allow some of the youngsters to come in, the time is now. The series is still on and blooding them in a more competitive situation would bear more fruit. Even if they fail, they would have the opportunity to redeem themselves in the coming games. If India go on to win the third ODI, the rest of the roster would get two dead games and that wouldn’t do them a lot of good.

Earlier, we discussed the case of Pankaj and Ojha, but there is an exception to that. Ravichandran Ashwin also debuted in the same game and managed to perform decently well. Since then he hasn’t looked back. If the likes of Pujara do get that solitary game, it is in their hands to make it count. That is still a huge gamble for the team management.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)