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With the World Cup in sight, have India done the right thing by resting the senior players for NZ ODIs?

Sunday, November 21, 2021
Shirin Sadikot

Indian national selectors have announced the squad for the first two ODIs against New Zealand. And once again, they have decided to rest some of the key players. The team, sans Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, will be led by Gautam Gambhir.

India has adopted this policy of resting the seniors from ODIs quite frequently of late in order to preserve them for the following Test assignments. This time it’s the tour to South Africa – perhaps the most difficult of all.

Given India’s unrelentingly tight schedule, it makes sense to preserve the ageing stars for the bigger challenges and ease the youngsters at the highest level to mould the future of the team. And to their credit, the young-guns haven’t done too badly. It would give India an opportunity to build the team for the World Cup.

They would certainly want to test whether the likes of Murali Vijay and Saurabh Tiwary have the mettle to translate their Twenty20 pyrotechnics into ODI success. Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin now have a chance to fight it out for the allrounder’s slot while the absence of veterans like Zaheer and Ashish Nehra will give an account of India’s young pace battery.

But on the other hand, the decision means that most of the players who’re certain to be a part of that World Cup squad will not play a single ODI in the sub-continent before the big event. India finish their three Tests, one Twenty20 and five ODIs in South Africa on 23rd January and 26 days later, on 19th February, open the World Cup campaign in Bangladesh against the hosts.

While all the players in question have played huge amount of Test cricket at home in recent times, they haven’t had a go in the limited overs format. Tendulkar’s last ODI innings was the 200-run epic in Gwalior against the Proteas on 24th February 2010. Harbhajan and Zaheer haven’t played a fifty-over game since the Asia Cup final in the last week of August. Only Dhoni has played all the One-dayers including the only match of the rain-marred series against Australia, which Sehwag missed due to injury.

True that most of these players have a vast amount of experience under their belt to cope with the change in conditions and format of the game. But these small things tend to hold greater importance when you’re talking about a tournament like the World Cup.

Keeping all the factors in mind and assessing the decision from both viewpoints, what do you have to say about India’s squad for the ODI series against the Kiwis?