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Often, for no apparent reason except the inclination of the stars, the fate and future of individuals appears to be irrevocably intertwined.
Take the curious case of Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary, who are involved in an unwitting battle for a middle order slot in India’s ODI team.
Four years ago, Rohit was in the middle when Tiwary walked out to debut against Australia in Brisbane, 2008.
Last year in England, Tiwary was named Rohit’s replacement after the Mumbai batsman broke his finger.
The recently concluded series against Sri Lanka added another chapter to this duel, providing the perfect platform for a rivalry between teammates vying for the same position.
A reluctance to drop Rohit despite his repeated failures and a blooding in of Tiwary as party boy Rahul Sharma’s replacement (for the last two ODIs) ensured that the dramatis personae got at least a couple of chances to wage a battle on equal footing, in the same contest.
No prizes for guessing who came out on top!
Tiwary, 26, after warming benches across countries for an eternity made good his chance in the fourth ODI with a four-wicket haul – although his batting (21, 38b) still seemed to be suspended by shreds of self-doubt.
In the next match, Tiwary dispelled all such notions, powering to a brisk half-century – an achievement that assumed greater significance when viewed in the light of Rohit’s persistent failures.
With the team management disinclined to do away with the Mumbai batsman, Rohit appeared in all five games against Lanka, failing each time and finishing with 13 painfully-gathered runs (5, 0, 0, 4, 4) to cap a forgettable series.
Despite his repeated failures, Rohit was not dropped because the management, apparently, did not want to dent his confidence – which makes one wonder why the same benevolent line of thought did not govern the way Tiwary (who was benched for a succession of 14 matches after scoring a ton against the West Indies in Chennai) was treated.
Different strokes for different folks? Maybe! India coach Duncan Fletcher, however, approved of Tiwary’s tenacity, saying the young batsman would henceforth be a serious contender for a middle order berth.
While these two grappled to get into the eleven, another duo went hammer and tongs to keep up the reputation of India’s indefatigable middle order sky high, indicating that the transitional phase that all teams have to endure might not be too tiresome when it arrives for India.
Virat Kohli, self-admittedly a changed player after scoring a Test hundred at Hobart last year, continued his purple patch with two centuries against Sri Lanka.
At 23, the Delhi lad has won a World Cup, amassed 13 ODI hundreds, averages in excess of 50 and is tipped to take over the side once the senior pros decide to take a back seat. Equally comfortable scoring his runs while chasing or setting a target, Kohli represents all that is good in contemporary Indian cricket – give or take a swear word – and his focus on his craft has had even seasoned campaigners such as Yuvraj Singh in awe.
Another vital member of the young brigade, Suresh Raina, took his match-winning IPL ways into international cricket. The Ghaziabad lad has achieved some reputation as a finisher of sorts, as he proved in two games in the Emerald Isle, rallying the lower order around him in successful chases.
Other heartening point from the series for India were the continuing consistency of Gautam Gambhir (a century and two fifties), the return of Irfan Pathan as an ODI all-rounder of some seriousness, and M.S. Dhoni’s remarkably casual and successful approach to captaincy, batting and all things cricket.
The bowling, on tracks such as were available in Sri Lanka, was restrictive at best. R. Ashwin’s off-spin was economical, Zaheer Khan seemed to be getting back into the groove, Pathan was tight, while Tiwary’s googlies were a pleasant surprise.
Only Ashok Dinda was a rank eyesore, going for almost seven an over across three matches, with no class or quality to redeem himself of his failures.