Role identification

Rohit Sharma...prospering because of better shot selection.-PTI

The victory against the Lankans notwithstanding, the Indian team management needs to get its categorisation of the players in the squad right, as this will have a big impact on the final combination. Any and every captain would love to have an all-rounder in his side, but it is fairly obvious that India does not have a genuine all-rounder.

The new look Indian side is learning some hard and valuable lessons in Zimbabwe and with the World Cup just a few months away, the selectors will get a measure of the available talent after this series. The Indians were humbled by Zimbabwe and it was rather an unexpected result. I say unexpected in the sense that Zimbabwe was struggling to get a decent combination to even challenge the regular Test playing nations, but they showed that complacency has no place in cricket by posting a facile victory against India. But the Indians have done well enough to come back with a comprehensive victory against the Lankans.

The star of the series for India so far has been Rohit Sharma, who with his back to back centuries has shown that he can perform at the international level provided he gets his shot selection right. The talented Sharma was given a long rope by the selectors, but he needed to repay the committee very quickly and his current performances will hearten all his fans.

While the Indian batting line-up does look capable enough on paper, the bowling department wears a relatively thin look. The injury to Vinay Kumar has robbed the team management of yet another option and they have to make do with the resources that are available until Mithun joins them. It remains to be seen if Mithun will get his opportunities and if he does, it will be equally interesting to see how he adapts to the shorter versions of the game.

The victory against the Lankans notwithstanding, the Indian team management needs to get its categorisation of the players in the squad right, as this will have a big impact on the final combination. Any and every captain would love to have an all-rounder in his side, but it is fairly obvious that India does not have a genuine all-rounder. But, unfortunately, the team management seems to be nursing fond hopes about the likes of Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja fitting into that role. I am not saying that they don't deserve a place in the squad, but to consider them as all-rounders does not somehow add up and the team management needs to rethink about their roles and slots. At best, Yusuf Pathan is an aggressive batsman who can roll his arm over and Jadeja is one who bowls left-arm spin and who can be a useful batsman lower down the order. Besides, he is agile on the field, which probably gives him an advantage. Whether he is better than Pragyan Ojha as a bowler in international cricket is something that is debatable.

Going back to Yusuf Pathan, he can be one hell of a belter of the ball, but one wonders why he is held back at number seven. He should be batting up the order wherein he can be useful to the side. But his apparent vulnerability against the quicker bowlers has probably not convinced the team management to promote him up the order. However, he has only come into the side based on his aggressive exploits with the bat and it will be difficult to convince the discerning that he can be effective as a bowler. Furthermore, Pathan has hardly been a leading wicket-taker for his state in the domestic circuit, which suggests that he is someone who can fill in when the main strike bowlers need a break. That being the case, he either plays as a top-order batsman or else he gives way to a pure bowler, especially when the bowlers are faltering. What is the point of not utilising the very talent (aggressive batting) that has impressed the selectors and the team management?

Similarly, Jadeja is another player who needs to be assigned his role, as he now is someone who does a bit of both. There will come a time when suddenly everyone concerned will be at sixes and sevens if the youngster is not nudged in one particular direction. Assigning a role to Jadeja will also prove to be beneficial in that Ojha will become aware of his position in the team. It is not a comforting thought for a left-arm spinner to be left out in a restrictive format of the game and that at the expense of someone who is a floater in every sense of the term.

The rapid development of Ojha is critical to the team's interest in the long run and hence the left-armer should be made to feel wanted and played as often as possible. The return of Harbhajan Singh will relegate either Ojha or Mishra to the bench and unless the team management see Mishra playing for a few years from now, they should look at backing Ojha as he is the future. The selectors need to identify the right players to form the squad for the World Cup and they should realise that categorisation of players is vital to forming a winning combination.