The Curious Case Of ‘Resting’ Rohit Sharma

Kolkata: Rohit Sharma was India’s most prolific batsman in the recent Test series triumph over England.

He also happens to be the most consistent top-order batter in white-ball cricket over the last four-five seasons. The only batsman to have hit four centuries in T20 Internationals, Rohit’s CV includes a mind-boggling hundred in merely 35 balls.

So why was he kept out of the playing XI in the first T20 International against a strong England side?

Virat Kohli’s explanation at the toss on Friday evening was that Rohit had been ‘rested’ for the first two matches.

A day earlier, the captain had made it clear that Rohit and KL Rahul would be India’s first-choice openers. “Only if Rohit is rested or KL has a niggle will Shikhar (Dhawan) come in as opener,” Kohli had said during the match-eve press conference.

Resting or rotating players is nothing uncommon in an age where cricket is played non-stop, throughout the calendar year. The workload of key players in the team, especially those who are involved in all three formats, surely needs to be managed to keep them fresh for important assignments. No arguments there.

It’s the timing of resting Rohit that begs the question: Why now?

India will be hosting the T20 World Cup in October-November, so the focus for most teams over the next few months will naturally be the 20-over format. Not only are England the defending champions, Eoin Morgan’s men are the No. 1 T20 side in the world.

This is as good a chance as any for Kohli’s Men in Blue to sharpen their skills against worthy opponents. The current series against England and the upcoming IPL will serve as ideal preparatory ground for the T20 World Cup.

Common logic suggests that India should field their best XI in this important series and go all out to establish supremacy over a team that is likely to be the biggest challengers in their pursuit of the coveted trophy.

There will be scope for Rohit to be rested in the ODI series, that follows the five T20 Internationals, and in fixtures post the World Test Championship final in June.

And if at all the team management was keen on Rohit getting a break as he has been playing continuously since the IPL, it could have been in the last couple of games in the series.

To be fair to players, playing in a bio-secure bubble amid the COVID-19 situation is a thankless and onerous task. So any break is welcome for them. But in this case, it’s not as if Rohit will be flying home and be free of the ‘bubble’.

So rather than make the in-form Rohit sit idle in the dressing room for two matches, wouldn’t it have made better sense to field him in the first three or four games and then give him a real break?

It’s not too late to reverse what seems to be a ‘faulty’ decision, as the second T20I will be played on Sunday. There’s no guarantee that Rohit’s inclusion will ensure victory, but India’s chances of levelling the series at 1-1 will get a boost.

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