Virat Kohli was acutely aware of the fact that his place in the team was far from certain, and that it was only the decision to rest six to seven cricketers that paved the way for his return. That said, he approached Wednesday's Visakhapatnam One-Day International with exactly the right attitude.
Kohli is one of several batsmen vying for a slot in the middle order in the ODI team. At the moment, his consistency — Kohli became the fastest Indian to 1000 ODI runs — is beating off the likes of Rohit Sharma, and making things difficult for M Vijay and Saurabh Tiwary.
The crowd in line to secure a place in the Indian team, especially in World Cup year, with slots still open, has meant each time a senior player takes rest, there's a chance for a youngster to move ahead. The non-stop nature of India's schedule, which includes T20 tournaments like the IPL and the Champions League, has ensured the selectors have to rest key players at different junctures, allowing niggles to heal and rejuvenating tired limbs.
The man who shoulders the greatest burden is M S Dhoni, doubling up as wicketkeeper and batsman and being the central figure in all three formats. Whether Dhoni wanted rest in this three-match ODI series and was persuaded otherwise, is unclear, as the captain rightly would not disclose what discussions he had with the Board of Control for Cricket in India, but he did clarify that he could not play endlessly. “Hopefully in the next series, I will get some rest,” he said, not specifying whether he would sit out a Test or some ODIs when India play New Zealand at home in November.
With New Zealand being at the wrong end of a 4-0 sweep in Bangladesh, India will not be shy to rest some key men and Dhoni is a front-runner to avail some home time. Given that India end their New Zealand series with five ODIs on the flat decks of Guwahati, Jaipur, Vadodara, Bangalore and Chennai, the last game being on Dec 10, and front up in a Test at the lively Centurion pitch on Dec 16, chances of a wholesale resting of senior players from the ODIs is on the cards.
The phenomenon of resting players is a recent one in Indian cricket, with the team environment being secure enough for players to ask for breaks when needed. Australia, though, have been managing the workload of their players for years now. Even in this ODI series, Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson were excluded, and on Thursday it was announced that Doug Bollinger and Mike Hussey would also return home. Bollinger hasn't recovered completely from an abdominal strain, and Hussey, though perfectly fine, is leaving as per a pre-decided schedule.
“As part of the ongoing individual work load management ahead of a an exciting summer and the World Cup , Mike Hussey will not play in the third one-day game in India and will return home to Australia,” said Andrew Hilditch, chairman of the national selection panel.
“Mike will have a few days off and then resume cricket in the Sheffield Shield match between South Australia and Western Australia commencing on 29 October at Adelaide Oval.”
The BCCI may not be as transparent with their plans of workload management, but they're certainly taking few chances with their key players.