Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary can hope of getting into the playing eleven only if India wins the series early and the some of the batsmen are rested

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Rohit Sharma’s brilliant displays with the bat in the first two One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against the West Indies have helped India take a strong 2-0 lead. The Mumbai batsman has entered a new productive phase of his career which augurs well for Indian cricket. His performances have meant that the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary would have to wait for their chances to get into the Indian line-up and make an impression.

 

Prior to the start of the ongoing ODI series, the three were competitors for a berth in the eleven. Rahane had been impressive at the top of the order against England. On the other hand Tiwary had come into the squad on the back of two big hundreds in the Ranji Trophy. The team management chose to go with the phenomenal talent of Rohit who, like Tiwary, was coming in with runs in the domestic circuit. That call has paid rich dividends as the scoreline of the series would suggest.

 

Rahane may have performed well in his outings so far, but the return of Virender Sehwag and the designation of Parthiv Patel as the lone wicket-keeper has meant that he has had to warm the benches. The only way he could have got into the eleven was by beating Rohit for the spot in the middle-order. In the ongoing series it is very difficult to see where Rahane would fit in the scheme of things. Even if Parthiv is dropped and Wriddhiman Saha is called in there wouldn’t be a spot in the eleven to accommodate Rahane. In such an eventuality, Gautam Gambhir would open with Sehwag and the rest of the order would comprise Virat Kohli, Rohit, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Saha.

 

On the other hand, it is unfortunate that a quality batsman like Tiwary has to wait for his chances which have traditionally come as isolated games. In the West Indies earlier this year he was drafted in after India sealed the series as a stop-gap arrangement at the top. In England, he replaced the injured Rohit and just got one hit in the middle. When England toured India, the chances came only after the series was in the bag. Due to such stop-start runs in the eleven, he hasn’t got the opportunity to translate his domestic dominance at the international level.

 

If India seals the series at Ahmedabad, then Tiwary could be given a chance and this time he has to make an impression so that he is taken very seriously the next time the team management sits to pick the eleven.

 

However, the only way the Rahane and Tiwary would fit into the eleven in the ongoing series would be if a batsman or two is rested when India seal the series – that is, if it happens before the fifth ODI. That call would be entirely upon the selectors and the players keeping in view their form, fitness and the need for game time before the Australia tour.

 

Coming to the bowling, the team management has to ensure that Rahul Sharma and Abhimanyu Mithun aren’t mere passengers with the side. In fact, Rahul hasn’t played a game since the Irani Trophy which was in early October. He has been on the Indian fringes since then and needs an opportunity in the middle. Being with the national side is a good experience, but it isn’t of much worth if a player doesn’t get a game for a long time. Ravichandran Ashwin can be given a bit of a breather to give the young leg-spinner a run in the side. Ashwin has been on the run for quite some time and a bit of a rest before the tour Down Under may help him recharge his batteries.

 

The competition between young players for spots in the playing eleven is a good sign for Indian cricket. It shows that India has the depth of talent and each player wants to make contributions to remain at the top. This contests help get the best out of the players as the ones on the bench are desperate to further their cases and the regulars know that only consistent performances would keep them in the eleven.

 

(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.”)