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Litmus test for young brigade

cricket Updated: Nov 29, 2011 01:36 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Hindustan Times
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As Mumbai's Ranji Trophy team were preparing for their Super League tie against Orissa on Monday, their batting machine, Rohit Sharma, was knocking in India's nets on the banks of the Mahanadi river in the same town.

Having been the leading light of Mumbai's batting in the first half of the domestic season, Rohit has firmly switched focus, determined to make an impact as he returns to the national side against the West Indies in the first One-dayer, to be played at the Barabati Stadium on Tuesday.

In his short span at the highest level, Rohit has had a spate of injury breakdowns. The latest, a fractured finger suffered while facing his first ball during India's first ODI in England in September, forced him off the field for almost two months.

Moreover, that blow by Stuart Broad also brought Rohit’s purple patch with the willow to a halt. After all, during India’s last ODI assignment in West Indies prior to the England tour, he was adjudged the Man-of-the-Series for his consistent showing.

As a result, it would be fitting for Rohit to resume his international career with an outing against the same Caribbean rivals. But the pressure on the 24-year-old’s shoulders would be much more than what it was in the Caribbean five months ago.

In the West Indies, he had to anchor an inexperienced batting line-up. Starting Tuesday, he will not only have to make comeback into the ODI fold count but also to justify his selection in India's touring party for the Test series in Australia.

Despite being included in the squad for the third Test against West Indies in Mumbai last week, even Rohit was surprised to see his name in the side for the series Down Under. A consistent run in this ODI series will surely help him stake a claim for a spot in India’s starting eleven in Australia.

Not just Rohit

With the national selectors opting to rest the likes of skipper MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, the series against West Indies will offer an opportunity for a lot of youngsters to exhibit their skills at the highest level.

While Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane and Varun Aaron are sure to feature in India’s starting line-up more than once, it remains to be seen if the other Sharma in the squad, leg-spinner Rahul, gets his India cap during the series.

Virender Sehwag, who will lead the young team in Dhoni's absence, was looking forward to rotate the youngsters. “We have a very good young side. It’s good for youngsters (that) they are getting opportunities. They have five games to show their skills,” he said. “If they perform well, we can continue fielding a young side. We are pretty confident of doing well.”