By Leslie Xavier
In Bulawayo (Zimbabwe)
India, as expected, completed a clean sweep of the five-match series against Zimbabwe at the Queens Sports Club here on Saturday (Aug. 3). A dismal performance once again from the hosts saw Virat Kohli and Co. sleep-walk through the formalities, following the same, leisurely and one-sided script of the previous matches.
But, on a tour touted as an exposure trip for the young players on the fringe of a national call-up, it was rather intriguing that the team management was reluctant to rotate the playing XI and give everyone chosen for the trip some playing time. After all, nothing beats time spent in the middle.
After watching the level of cricket and the resistance Zimbabwe were offering for India, it is hard to find logic in coach Duncan Fletcher or the management’s decision to persist with experienced players like Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina or Amit Mishra in all five matches of the tour, while someone like Parvez Rasool, who has done decently in the domestic circuit, warmed the benches. Rasool, in fact, had Ajinkya Rahane for company till Saturday.
Skipper Kohli explained after the match that the team was gunning for a 5-0 sweep and didn’t want to take a chance by tinkering with the “new and inexperienced bowling line-up” just to let Rasool play.
“If you are controlling the series 4-0, then you would want to make sure you win 5-0,” said Kohli, who had scored a century in the first match. “To do that you need to put pressure when you are bowling at the opposition and try not to let them score too many runs. That was the whole plan and I am not really bothered about what’s been said about people not getting chances; because, a lot of the players who got five games here have been sitting on the bench for the last two months or so. Parvez himself realises that we had a set bowling combination and I didn’t want to make any change in that. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get a game but it just didn’t go according to our plans. Maybe, in the future when he plays more series he would probably get a few games to test his skills out.”
But back in Rasool’s home state of Jammu and Kashmir, its chief minister Omar Abdullah was not amused at all by how the allrounder was left out. His sarcastic tweet has triggered a big debate across the social media platforms.
“Did you really have to take him all the way to Zimbabwe to demoralise him? Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just do it at home?” he tweeted. A day before he had urged the BCCI to consider Rasool, tweeting: “Come on BCCI give the young man (Rasool) a chance to prove himself.”
A cricket fan’s passionate appeal or a politician’s way of earning some brownie points amongst the masses? Whatever be the case, I can’t help but agree with Abdullah in this case: I had to walk a few laps around the picturesque ground here just to keep myself awake during the match you see… Such was the thoroughly one-sided nature of the competition.
And Kohli wanted to play it safe!