Cricket: Rotation is the best policy
India failed to qualify for the semi-finals in two major back to back tournaments — the World T20 and the ICC World Championship. While the first had a lot to do with fitness (and fatigue following the IPL), the second was mostly due to poor performance, particularly by the bowlers. With a year long cricket season having become pretty much the norm, its impossible for players to perform continuously over a long period without succumbing to injuries or by simply losing form.There are no shortage of examples. Even Sachin Tendulkar looks his best every time he returns from a break. Rahul Dravid and Ashish Nehra appear to be back in reasonable form after a break. Sehwag, Gambhir, Sreesanth, and Yuvraj have been struggling with injuries. Dhoni has run into indifferent form and has become a shadow of his former belligerent batting style. Gone are the days when Dhoni could whack the ball from the get go. Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa belong to the category of talented young players who lost form (though some argue that these two have been busy in fashion shows and the like).
It is best for the selectors to settle on a formal rotation policy — one which is well communicated and understood by the players without giving them the feeling that they are being dumped everytime they miss out on a game. Ishant Sharma, R.P. Singh and Harbhajan Singh top the list of those badly in need of a rest. It is a complete mystery as to why there have been no calls whatsoever for giving Harbhajan a rest. He has been so thoroughly overexposed that the Pakistan batsman appeared to be capable of playing him in their sleep. The Aussies had little trouble either. His five wicket haul in Sri Lanka was an anomaly rather than the norm. Barring this fine bowling in the final in in Sri Lanka I can’t remember the last time he produced a match winning performance. He has played the role of defensive bowler for way too long while what India lacks is a wicket taking bowler. Pragyan Ohja and Amit Mishra are both promising younger players who deserve an extended run. Piyush Chawla and R. Ashwin are both capable players who deserve a shot as well. Besides, Romesh Powar and Murali Karthik are still around if experience is preferred. In short, Harbhajan badly needs a break and its time the selectors gave him one. His continued presence in the team is not only preventing India from winning it is also shutting the door on other promising, talented players.
Looking ahead to the next World Cup, India is still in need of an all rounder. Irfan Pathan has fizzled out. While his batting is impressive, his bowling is unreliable and is getting slower by the day. Yousuf Pathan seems more suited to T20. Abhishek Nayar and Ravinder Jadeja appear to have promise but thus far are mostly untested. India has to fill the all rounder spot if it has to consider itself as a serious contender for the next World Cup. It makes sense to rotate a pool of players, and pick those in form but give everyone a share of rest without making them feel dumped.