Time to look beyond Rohit Sharma

August 8, 2012

Indian cricket has always been blamed for persisting with players on account of reputation — and in some cases experience. But the way Rohit Sharma, who currently lacks both, was handed game after game on the recently concluded tour of Sri Lanka shows a new trend emerging — one that of selecting players on the basis of “unrealised potential”.

Rohit may have it in him to succeed at the highest level but the Indian team management must decide how many is too many, for now at least, especially with Manoj Tiwary and Ajinkya Rahane waiting in the wings.

Rohit had a wretched run against Sri Lanka, scoring just 13 runs in five matches, the least by a recognised Indian batsman in a series of five matches or more. He was late on the ball, had his feet anchored to the crease — signs of a batsman short on form and confidence.

On the contrary, Tiwary, who just got two games, justified his selection by scoring a half-century in the fifth ODI. Rahane also got a game but failed to make a mark.

Rohit’s selection for the tour itself was a questionable call, with the batsman having passed the fifty mark only once in his last eight outings.

Last year, Rohit was outstanding against the West Indies — both home and away — leading many to believe that the right-hander has finally come of age, and more importantly it was his consistency that caught the eye.

But after eight months, self-doubt has engulfed him again.

Typically, the Indian team management has been stubborn in its stance, denying the problem in the first place.

Of all the press statements that came out in his support, Gautam Gambhir’s comment was the most amusing. “If he (Rohit) is in your scheme of things for the next World Cup (2015), obviously you have to go with him and try and give him as much confidence as possible,” he said before the third ODI.

Since when did India start planning long-term? And can they keep others on the bench just because Rohit needs “confidence”. And for that boost, leg-spinner Rahul Sharma was denied a slot in the playing XI, with both Rohit and Tiwary in the side; a compromise formula that skipper MS Dhoni resorts to when faced with selection criticism.

Gambhir went to the extent of saying that Rohit was “the best among all of us” in the nets.

All that pep talk meant that Rohit was left with even more to prove and no wonder he failed.

Not long back, Virat Kohli and Rohit were both considered to be in the same league. While Kohli has gone on to score 13 centuries, with an impressive average of 51 in ODIs, Rohit got just two tons to his name in almost the same number of matches, averaging 31.

In terms of opportunities too, Rohit has got his fair share, having played 85 ODIs since his debut in June 2007. On the other hand, Tiwary, who started his international career eight months later, has played just eight ODIs.

As things stand, Rohit is part of the 30-member provisional squad for World Twenty20, starting in Sri Lanka from Sept. 18.

The selectors will do well to leave him out of the final 15 and give the right-hander a much-needed break. The slam-bang format could compound Rohit’s problems and the pressure to perform will be a lot more in a multi-team event.

Time away from the game can do wonders sometimes and may be that’s the cure for his current problems.

If only the selectors thought so.

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