The Indian team's think-tank has taken a leaf out of Australia's book in the ongoing Commonwealth Bank tri-series by deciding to adopt the rotational policy for their three senior batsmen - Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir.
Sehwag and Gambhir were not part of India's matches against Australia at Melbourne and against Sri Lanka at Perth respectively, and it was Tendulkar's turn to sit out the team's third match of the tournament at the Adelaide Oval today. As expected, the news of Tendulkar's omission wasn't taken too kindly by former India captain Ravi Shastri, who was visibly upset by the team management's decision to rest the master batsman and said he should play all the matches in the CB Series to try and score his elusive 100th century in international cricket. But, why should Tendulkar be given special treatment and be kept away from the rotational policy? Tendulkar is undoubtedly India's greatest batsman, but even he can't be bigger than the team.
I thought cricket was a team game where personal milestones take a back seat and decisions should be taken in the larger interests of the team! This is something I had alluded to in this article last month saying Tendulkar's selection for the CB Series and indeed the one-day team is a backward step for Indian cricket.
Returning to the rotational policy being used Down Under, Sehwag justified it last week as he said the team management wants the youngsters in the team to play all matches in the tournament and get used to the conditions as the 2015 World Cup is being hosted by Australia and New Zealand. "We have good youngsters. (What is) important is, they have to play more one-dayers so they have experience when the World Cup comes. That's our aim. When the World Cup is there, they should have played at least 75-100 ODIs, so they are ready for the World Cup," he said.
India captain MS Dhoni said the policy has been put into place to ensure Rohit Sharma gets enough matches to make himself a permanent member of the one-day team. There's something fundamentally wrong with this logic, because Rohit would have thought he had established himself in the team thanks to his back-to-back Man of the Series awards in India's last two one-day series against West Indies, both home and away. Also, by singling out Rohit, the message is that he still hasn't done quite enough to be a part of the playing XI and he's being given enough chances now to make a case for himself. This surely is being unfair to Rohit when there are other players who need this 'security' more than him at the moment.
Australia first used the rotational policy in the early 2000s when they were an all-conquering force, and it was more out of a need to infuse a sense of competition for places in the team to ensure players don't get complacent and stop challenging themselves to improve. And, the players who were rotated were and continue to be are the ones in form; an example of which was resting Michael Hussey for today's game and handing Peter Forrest his maiden international cap.
The Indian team management's heart seems to be in the right place, but they are going wrong with implementing the policy by rotating only the top three batsmen and not adopting the same attitude towards somebody like Suresh Raina, who continues to be found out time and again on bouncy pitches away from the sub-continent. Raina has had enough opportunities and time to work on his technique against short deliveries, but despite his continued failures in the middle-order, he is being given a long rope.
And, that's when someone like Manoj Tiwary is part of India's squad for the CB Series. Not only did Tiwary score his maiden international century in his last ODI appearence for India, he is also handy with the ball and is brilliant in the field, and can easily slot into Raina's spot. Raina needs to be sent out a message that he can't take his place in the team for granted, especially when there's a worthy competitor around.
India should ideally have first used the rotational policy in the Test series against West Indies at home, former opening batsman Aakash Chopra writes in this column. Chopra adds it makes little sense to rotate players after just one or two outings and there should be a method to the madness.
It's time also that Dhoni and the team management give serious thought about including Irfan Pathan in India's playing XI sooner than later in the tournament at the expense of either Ravindra Jadeja or Vinay Kumar.