Rohit vs Rahane Is Not Really a Debate, Play Both in Centurion
Rahane and Rohit bring different types of batting to the table, both should be encouraged to stay how they are.
The Cape Town Test is over, the knives are sharpened and the critics are waiting for one more result like this one, to bring them out.
Everything that happened in the three eventful days of cricket (one day was washed out due to rain) in the shadow of the famous Table mountain in Cape Town is under the scanner: From preparation to selection to technique to reputation.
But that’s how losses are, and international teams and players are well aware of that. The only problem though is that they can neither take this criticism seriously, nor can they ignore it altogether.
Everything always can’t be painted with the brush of preconceived opinions and prejudices. One loss and old slangs of ‘can’t play swing’, ‘can’t handle bounce’, ‘doesn’t have technique’ are used lavishly. But in this hysteria of going over the top with criticism, some valid points remain uncovered and untold.
The Hypocrisy That Followed India’s Defeat
Let’s look at the last Test match and some of the analysis around it constructively and figure out what India needs to do to win Test matches abroad. First, let us get to the playing conditions. The match finished in less than three days and there was not a word about how this wicket could be a ‘bad advertisement’ for Test cricket or how there was a significant imbalance between bat and ball.
The home team managed 130 runs in their second innings, and India could only post 135. Eighteen wickets fell in the span of 64 overs, or to simplify it, one wicket in every 15 balls.
No one wrote a word about how some balls were unplayable and bounced awkwardly. Just reverse the same conditions in India where there is turn and bounce for spinners and everyone is up in arms against the home board, writing about how these kinds of wickets aren’t ideal for cricket or how the game is tilted in favour of the home team.
Just to reconfirm, I don’t have any issues with green tops or spinner friendly wickets, and actually, I feel wickets favouring bowlers often produce top class cricket. But I have a massive problem with the hypocrisy around the reportage of wickets. Yardstick of criticising seaming and spinning conditions should be the same and ability to handle spinners should be praised on par with the skill to play the fast bowlers.
For the record, the Indian cricket captain, as expected, didn’t beat around the bush and termed the wicket as ‘outstanding for cricket’.
Team Needs to Back Rohit and Dhawan
There is also criticism that players like Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan don’t have the technique to survive these conditions. Look at the scoreboard carefully, and you would see the so-called technically correct batsmen did not score runs on this wicket either. Runs were scored by players who had the intent and readiness to attack at every given opportunity.
I feel both Rohit and Shikhar have that in abundance. AB De Villiers and Hardik Pandya scored their runs by hitting everything that was in their range and taking their chances, not by blocking all day long. No one can put these two in the category of ‘classically correct’ batsmen. And that’s why this team would always back Rohit in these conditions. All they need to remind him possibly is that he needs to bat like ‘Ro-hit’ and don’t overtry to find the ‘Test Batsman’ in him.
Obviously dropping someone with the class and stellar overseas record like Ajinkya Rahane’s will raise questions, and rightly so. And looking back at the Test match, Rahane was missed with the bat and especially in the slip cordon. A player like Rahane has chances of doing well in these conditions as his game has the right balance of defence and aggression. He can avert tough balls but at the same time won’t let any scoring opportunity slip away.
That’s the approach India would require if they face the same conditions again in Pretoria. Thanks to modern age T20 cricket, we don’t have the upbringing to groom Gavaskars and Dravids, and let's not try to find any. These players are the product of their age, and they would play the game the way they have learnt it and applied over the years. Constant comparison with the batsmanship of previous eras and styles of playing will not do any good to anyone.
If India can focus on minute details and don’t get carried away with clichéd criticism they can make a comeback in this series. Obviously, some selection calls have to be made. Parthiv for Wriddhiman Saha, KL Rahul for Dhawan and Rahane as extra batsmen in place of one bowler could change the dynamics of this side completely.
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