Wednesday, Sep 24, 2014

Fill in the blank: Selection headache return to India camp

Coach Duncan Fletcher and director Ravi Shastri have a word with Rohit Sharma on Friday. (Express Photo by Daksh Panwar) Coach Duncan Fletcher and director Ravi Shastri have a word with Rohit Sharma on Friday. (Express Photo by Daksh Panwar)
Written by Daksh Panwar | Nottingham | Posted: August 30, 2014 1:49 am | Updated: August 30, 2014 9:38 am

On the batting honours board hanging in the long room of the Trent Bridge pavilion, Murali Vijay’s is the second most recent name. The last time India were here at this idyllic, picture-perfect venue — for the Test series opener in July — the opener struck a magnificent 146, which prepared the ground for the eventual draw.

Vijay has long ceased to be a credible part of India’s one-day plans. He has a batting average of 19.46 in the format. However, long after he thought he was done with England, the Tamil Nadu right-hander learnt that his services were on standby again after Rohit Sharma, India’s opening bat in ODIs, fractured his bowling hand’s middle finger and was ruled out of the rest of the series.

Rohit, who made a crucial fifty in the last match at Cardiff, appeared to have hurt his finger while fielding at SWALEC Stadium on Wednesday. In the 35th over of the England innings, he dropped Chris Woakes when the latter played a full-blooded pull towards midwicket. He immediately rushed off the field.

India went on to win the match by a massive margin of 133 runs (D/L), and suddenly it seemed that everything was finally falling into place for the visitors. But with the BCCI confirming the extent of Rohit’s injury on Friday, India were out of their comfort zone almost as soon as they stepped in it.

Who then should open with Shikhar Dhawan, who himself is struggling rather badly? For it was unlikely that Vijay would make it in time for the third ODI — which meant India would have to make do with a makeshift opener. And if one of the middle-order batsmen was shoe-horned into the top slot, who would come in his place lower down? These questions were likely to have dominated the team meeting on match eve.

For Saturday’s match, it seemed likely that Ajinkya Rahane would open the innings with Dhawan. Rahane made his one day international debut as an opener three years ago in England. And he was one of the silver linings of that exceptionally gloomy series. However, after a string of poor scores, he was dropped from the team, and made his way back only as a middle-order batsman. But in Rohit Sharma’s absence in Bangladesh in June, Rahane again opened and struck a half century. At any rate, it’s a familiar position for Rahane, who is a regular opener for his IPL team, Rajasthan Royals.

Kohli for the job?

Another batsman who has opened in the ODIs in recent times is Virat Kohli. He came out to bat with Rohit in the fourth ODI against New Zealand earlier this year. However, the experiment flopped spectacularly — Kohli made only two continued…

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