CRICKET / Rohit Sharma, the latest middle-order batsman to come good as opener

The country’s greatest ever left-arm spinner and former captain Bishan Singh Bedi has always maintained that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is India’s’s luckiest captain. And most Indian fans agree with this thought.

Dhoni may well go on to become India’s most successful captain in more than one format of the game. His experiments have often baffled the ‘experts’ commenting on television and writing columns. Most of his ‘tricks’ have worked well, the latest being, using Rohit Sharma’s talent as an opener in a key contest. That too, after Rohit failed in the role thrice and having scored just 17 runs from last six innings!

Rohit, in the ODI squad because of an injured Manoj Tiwary, showed form with a string of scores this Ranji Trophy season. After sitting out for five successive matches following his failure in the first ODI against Pakistan, Rohit made the playing eleven as a make-shift opener and did the job expected from him.

Ironical as it may sound, in a country with 27 first-class teams with at least two specialist openers in each squad, the National team is made to experiment — middle-order batsmen turning out to open the innings.

In fact, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, Virender Sehwag and more recently Virat Kohli, who staked their claims as middle-order batsmen, have all opened for the country in one format or the other.

It is indeed surprising why a country, with such a settled domestic structure, struggles to find specialists to do specialised jobs. Remember, the days of pinch-hitters in ODIs are long gone. Some of the better teams in the world, except India, are looking for specialists in every format of the game.

England may have lost the one-day series against the World champion, but it should not hurt its supporters much. The team’s most important objective of the season was to beat India on its home soil. England achieved it in grand fashion. It bounced back after losing the first Test. In doing so, England also demolished a myth that only India could win with spin in the sub-continent.

For the ODIs, England could have easily included bowlers who made life miserable for the Indian batsmen in Tests. But it decided to continue with some of its limited-over specialists-in-the-making. For this bold decision and continued experiments with youth, the England’s board and selectors deserve compliments.

Coming back to India’s ‘experiments’, usually to achieve short-term goals, the team is bound to suffer in the long run. Dhoni’s trial-and-error methods need not bring in the desired results with consistency. It is time India corrects its short-sightedness and plans better.

Those doing well in the longer format of the game in domestic cricket should logically be short-listed for Tests. Likewise, those performing in the shorter versions should be considered accordingly.

In fact, in 2006, former chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar had mentioned that Mumbai was grooming a then upcoming Rohit to be a Test player since the youngster showed the right temperament for the longer duration of the game. However, two seasons later, came the Indian Premier League.

Before long, Rohit was a regular member of the country’s teams for the shorter duration of the game, what with the Test team having the most experienced middle-order in the world.

Rohit may have done his captain and country proud on Wednesday, but it is time Indians adopted the policy of horses for courses.

Meanwhile, both teams arrived at this hilly destination where bright sunny weather welcomed them. For the moment, with no snowfall or rain forecast over the weekend, the fifth and final ODI on Sunday is surely on. And so will be experiments from both sides in this ‘dead’ rubber.

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