In what way do you dismiss young people who have done a great job for KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer? Rohit Sharma knows the answer to this question without having to study it.
The Asia Cup 2023, whose squad for which was announced on Monday by chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar in New Delhi, will mark the first big tournament where captain Rohit Sharma will enjoy the luxury of leading a first-choice, fully-fit Indian team since taking over as full-time captain. Rohit missed the South Africa tour in January 2022 due to a hamstring injury, and by the time he was back, a plethora more were waiting to grapple Team India. In July, KL Rahul was absent from India’s tour of England due to a groin strain, while Jasprit Bumrah’s participation in the Asia Cup T20 was ruled out.
If that wasn’t challenging enough, India’s concerns escalated when Ravindra Jadeja had to be sidelined midway through the tournament owing to a bad shoulder that required surgery. Their absence had a noticeable impact during the T20 World Cup in Australia, where India suffered a lopsided defeat in the semifinals against England. And to make matters worse, when 2023 began, Rishabh Pant got hurt in a car crash, while Rahul’s hammy and Shreyas Iyer’s back gave up, forcing India to field a somewhat depleted Playing XI against Australia in the World Test Championship final. Three big ICC events; resulted in overwhelming defeats.
As daggers were quickly drawn at Rohit sharma, one aspect of his captaincy that conveniently got brushed under the carpet was that he never had the privilege of fielding India’s best XI… until now.
With Rahul, Shreyas, and Bumrah back for the Asia Cup and, in all likelihood, the World Cup, Rohit’s days of fretting over injury concerns are over. But at the same time, it has put him in a bit of a fix. The return of India’s first-choice preferences means that the youngsters who have constantly filled in for them over the last year and more, will step aside. Yashasvi Jaiswal, who scored a Test century on debut and a fifty in just his 2nd T20I. Tilak Varma, whose emergence captivated the audience’s imagination with scores of 39, 51, and 49 against the West Indies. Ishan Kishan, who scored the fastest double-century in ODI history and struck a hat-trick of half-centuries while the rest of the batters struggled… will all make way.
How do you drop them? Well, the answer to this burning question isn’t exactly rocket science for Rohit. “Yeah, I mean, look, it’s tough. I have been in that position myself many times, so I understand how it feels and how it is for someone who has been playing for a year and doing the job. But the guys we are going to get in are proven players. They’ve scored loads of runs, won us so many games, so you obviously cannot neglect that part of their game. I do understand when guys like Tilak, Shubman, Surya, Sanju, Jaiswal, and many others… I may be forgetting a few names, but these are the names that were there in the West Indies. They have to wait for their time, they have to wait for the right opportunities. That is all I can say,” he said in reply to a query from The Hindustan Times.
Shreyas Iyer India’s best middle order batter in last 2 years
The bit that Rohit accurately highlights is just how good Iyer and Rahul have been. In the last two years, no Indian middle order batter has been as successful as Shreyas. 818 runs from 18 innings at an average of 51.12, including 1 century and six fifties, seem poised to address India’s No. 4 woes. As for Rahul, while it’s evident that he should be nowhere near India’s T20I set-up, in ODIs, his presence at No. 5 is indispensable. Since assuming this role after the T20 World Cup, Rahul has posted scores of 73 against Bangladesh, 64 not out against Sri Lanka, and an impressive unbeaten 75 against Australia, tallying a total of 321 runs from nine innings.
Rahul’s recent minor injury, as revealed by Agarkar, may lead him to miss the first two matches of the Asia Cup, consequently granting Ishan a couple of opportunities. However, if India’s squad has been chosen as a reflection of their World Cup 15, the No. 5 position unequivocally belongs to Rahul. Similarly, with Shreyas back, the debate between Suryakumar Yadav and Sanju Samson effectively concludes, as neither player stands a chance against the astounding returns delivered by Shreyas.
As the skipper mentioned, years ago when Rohit was bursting onto the scene, he found himself at a similar crossroads, having to wait in line as Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh continued to hold their positions for India in the middle-order. From his 2007 debut to transitioning into an opener against England in Mohali in 2013, Rohit had played 83 ODIs, scoring 1949 runs with two centuries. Although these figures were respectable, the retirements of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag simultaneously cleared the path for MS Dhoni to fully harness Rohit’s potential at the top. 10 years later, Rohit finds himself in Dhoni’s shoes and admits feeling for the youngsters who are going to miss out.
“The constant conversation about where they stand in terms of moving forward is always had with the players. We always try and have those chats with players; it’s not like they don’t know where they are at and what is going to happen in the future. They are very much aware of where they are at, where they stand and what is going to happen in the future. It’s always the case. Guys who are proven players have done well, match-winners who are out with injuries when fit will obviously get in the squad. Those kinds of conversations are always had with the players. It’s not that these decisions are taken out of the blue. Players are aware of what the road ahead is for them,” Rohit added further.