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What's the point in taking the reserves to Zimbabwe?

July 29, 2013 10:22 IST

What's the point in taking the reserves to Zimbabwe?

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By not fielding the fringe players in the squad in the first three ODIs, Bikash Mohapatra says, the whole point of accommodating a trip to Zimbabwe in Team India’s already hectic schedule was defeated.

Virat Kohli led from the front, with a brisk fifty, to ensure India a comfortable win over Zimbabwe in the third one-dayer in Harare on Sunday. It ensured the visitors an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.

-Scorecard

The result is on expected lines, a foregone conclusion even before the commencement of the series. Unless something goes drastically wrong, the World champions should comfortably win the next couple of matches in Bulawayo and complete a clean sweep.

However, while the series is won, the purpose of the tour has been defeated.


Image: Virat Kohli of India celebrates
Photographs: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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Test the bench strength

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The whole point of accommodating a trip to Zimbabwe in Team India’s already hectic schedule was to test the bench strength. So while the likes of captain MS Dhoni, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav were given some much-needed rest, the tour party included Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammad Shami, Mohit Sharma and Pervez Rasool. It was a great idea to begin with, but was a cropper when it came to execution. For Team India is yet to give many of these talented players even a single opportunity to prove their worth.

As things stand, Kohli has won the team two matches –- the first and the third – while it was Shikhar Dhawan’s exploits that ensured the visitors had no trouble pocketing the second.

The batting order was almost the same. Rohit Sharma and Dhawan have opened for India in recent times with Kohli coming in at No.3, followed by Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja, most of them regulars in the Indian team – Karthik being the automatic choice as wicketkeeper in Dhoni’s absence.

The only new entrant in this scheme of things was Rayudu, and, suffice to say, he could have been sent up the order. At least he got a chance.

The likes of Rahane and Pujara didn’t even get that; even if Rohit failed in all the three matches and Dhawan could have been rested for a game or two.


Image: Amit Mishra
Photographs: Harry Engels/Getty Images

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Jadeja could have been rested

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It was a perfect opportunity for the think-tank to try out new permutations and combinations as far as the opening pair is concerned.

Also, Jadeja could have been rested and Rasool given a chance, the former being a first team player in any case.

The same holds true for the bowling. With most of the key bowlers rested for the series, it was an opportunity to try out the combination of Sharma and Shami. The latter got an opportunity and did well, but the former is yet to get a game.

Instead, the think-tank preferred to lead the attack with R Vinay Kumar. Needless to say, he was at his erratic best.

Amit Mishra, to his credit, did well, particularly in the third game.


Image: Suresh Raina with Ravindra Jadeja


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Team wasn't tinkered

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Having said that, if the selectors are seriously looking at players with the 2015 World Cup in mind, they might have done well to look past both Mishra and Vinay Kumar, two players almost in the twilight of their respective careers.

The 30-plus Mishra, having been in and out of the team for more than a decade now, can never challenge Ashwin’s place as things stand. The same holds true for the 29-year-old Vinay Kumar. It’s preposterous to even comprehend him replacing either Ishant or Umesh.

However, with age on their side, Sharma, Shami and Rasool can stake their claim for a regular spot, provided they are given ample opportunities now.

It can be argued that the team wasn’t tinkered much as the visitors wanted to pocket the series first, and that the other players will get an opportunity now.


Image: India's captain Virat Kohli (right) and Suresh Raina
Photographs: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

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Will this be enough to test the calibre of these fringe players?

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But wouldn’t even a second string Indian team have beaten this Zimbabwe side?

Going by the manner in which the home team has played so far, the answer to the above question would be an affirmative.

Resting the likes of Rohit, Dhawan, Raina, Jadeja, or for that matter Kohli himself, for a match or two, would have had no real impact on the overall result.

In fact, it would have served as a confidence booster for the likes of Pujara, Rahane and Rasool.

However, sticking to what is mainly a first team is an opportunity lost for the bench strength.

Now that the series is won, the said players will hopefully get an opportunity or two in the remaining matches in Bulawayo.

 But then another question arises.

Will this be enough to test the calibre of these fringe players?

The answer to the above will be in the negative, of course. For the Indian think-tank has wasted what was clearly a glorious opportunity to test the bench strength and give them some much needed international exposure.


Image: Shikhar Dhawan
Photographs: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

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