Rohit Sharma: Necessary to test bench strength
Stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma supports selectors' decision to rest Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni for T20I series v West Indies that begins at Eden Gardens today; injured Russell ruled out
On what has been an utterly disappointing tour for the West Indies, their batsmen have frequently stepped over the fine line that separates flair from foolhardiness. On the final leg of the one-and-a-half-month tour, that failing is unlikely to pose a problem as it has been over the past weeks. If the longer versions of the game have ruthlessly exposed the gap in ability and attitude between the two sides, the three-match T20 series, which begins at the Eden Gardens today, provides the visitors an opportunity to sign off on a right note.
It's not just about the shortest version providing the underdogs their best shot. The Caribbean cricketers have shown a knack for it, and there is no better example of it than their triumph in the World T20 at this venue a couple of years ago.
Carlos Brathwaite, whose four consecutive sixes had snatched victory from England in the final, is back as skipper and he has flown in here with several other T20 specialists. The likes of Brathwaite, Kieron Pollard and Darren Bravo lend the visitors the kind of halo that has been lacking even as Andre Russell was ruled out of the T20I series due to an injury on Saturday.
The Indians are going in without Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni with an eye on bigger battles ahead. "They [Kohli, Dhoni] will be missed but it's also necessary to test bench strength and [ready] possible replacements. We cannot go to the World Cup with limited resources; we need to have options," said Rohit Sharma, who will be leading the side in the absence of Kohli.
"Dhoni has been such a massive player for us, and his experience in the middle will be missed but, then, Rishabh [Pant] and Dinesh [Karthik] have great opportunities to show what they are capable of," he added, reminding that someone like left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem is yet to make a debut while Krunal Pandya too hasn't played despite being in the squad.
KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, and even Shikhar Dhawan, will, of course, be on redemption road. Skipper Rohit has been in flaunting form, and if the others come to the party, India too will present serious firepower.
As often happens in a battle between two good batting line-ups, it's the bowling units that could well decide the outcome. The Indian attack, endowed with more variety and skill-sets, is better equipped. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have complimented each other as have wrist spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.
Add Umesh Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed, Nadeem and Washington Sundar and the Indians have a nice mix to choose from. "We have respect for them, but it's not as if we tell ourselves that some bowler is unplayable. We'll try and find a way to score against them," responded Brathwaite when pointed to the West Indian weakness to quality spin. While Pollard will bring his bowling skills as well, the ruling out of all-rounder Russell and off-spinner Ashley Nurse has taken a string out of the West Indian bow.
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