Virat Kohli, after winning his fifth toss on the bounce at home, told Ravi Shastri that India were going in with four bowlers — two seamers, two spinners — and six batsmen. Which meant the Indian team management had left the leg-spinner Amit Mishra out for an extra batsman — Rohit Sharma. Now, Mishra might not have taken as many wickets as Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja recently, but he has given the team some vital breakthroughs.
In the South Africa series last year, he bowled the visiting team’s most dangerous man, AB de Villiers, twice in the first Test match. On both the occasions, AB was threatening to take the momentum away from India.
In Nagpur, Mishra removed Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis in the second innings when they had patiently strung together a partnership in the second innings. In Delhi, he was deemed surplus to the team’s requirement. South Africa nearly drew the Test match.
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The logic behind the benching of Mishra could be that Kanpur being a slow and a low turner, his seeming slow leg-spin might not be been potent enough.
But Mishra is capable of mixing his pace well. His double dismissal of AB in the first Test came off balls that were surprisingly quicker than his usual deliveries. Alternatively, the team management could reason that if the Green Park pitch was to offer exaggerated turn, two spinners would be enough.
That said, the thing is, harsh as it may seem, there could be a number of arguments made to buttress Mishra’s exclusion. But the Indian team management is fast running out of reasons to keep Rohit Sharma in the XI.
He is a top-notch batsman, true, and is probably the best player off the backfoot in the country. But Sharma just doesn’t seem to have the temperament for Test cricket. At any rate, he is not giving any evidence to the contrary. And it’s not his form that we are talking about here, but the mode of his dismissals. For example:
A familiar story
India vs South Africa, Delhi, 2015: India have just lost Virat Kohli. Imran Tahir is bowling at him. There is fielder at long on, but Rohit decides to take him on. A wild hoick ends up straight in his hands.
Mumbai vs New Zealanders, Delhi, 2016: Rohit is coming off a poor run in the West Indies and didn’t have a satisfactory outing at the Duleep Trophy. He starts aggressively. Takes on the leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, hitting a six and a four. There is a fielder in the deep. Rohit decides to take him on. Wildly charges out to the leg-spinner. Misses the ball completely and is stumped.
India vs New Zealand, Kanpur, 2016: Rohit has survived a massive lbw appeal off Mark Craig. He seems to have settled into a bit of rhythm. Mitchell Santer is bowling at him. Cut, Copy, Paste [There is a fielder in the deep. Rohit decides to taken him on]. Finds his man at long-on.
Poor form is one thing, poor mindset is something else altogether. His teammates though defended him.
“That’s his area, I guess,” Murali Vijay said at the press conference after the day was over. “When it comes off, it always looks good. When it doesn’t, you fall on the wrong side. So I think we still got to back our instincts and play because we are playing in a sport where have got to win matches rather than just participate in a team. Whatever has got you here, you have to back that.”
There is a quote about insanity and repetition. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out how it fits in the context of Rohit Sharma and India’s think tank.