India's nine-wicket defeat in the second ODI in Hambantota was an abject performance, leaving the five-match series at 1-1 heading into the next match in Colombo on Saturday. While India need to pick themselves up before that, there is one pressing issue that has to be addressed – the poor form of Rohit Sharma.
With a Test place up for grabs when New Zealand land in India for a Test series in August, Rohit is fast playing himself out of the ODI side. In 2012, Rohit’s ODI innings reads like this - 21, 10, 33, 15, 0, 4, 68, 5, 0. His latest innings of 0, bowled while playing a half-cock shot outside off stump to Angelo Mathews, took his average for the year to 17.33. This is not the form of a batsman ranked highly by many, and time is running out for the 25-year-old.
Let’s take a look at the mode of his dismissals in 2012. At the MCG against Australia, was unconvincing in getting to 21 off 21 balls before he fending at a Clint McKay delivery outside off stump and nicked to the wicketkeeper. Against Sri Lanka in Perth, he cut Thisara Perera in the air to point. In Adelaide, he got to 33 before throwing it away with a lofted shot on the rise. Two nights later he was run out attempting a risky single. In Brisbane, Rohit was out for a duck, slashing at a ball from Brett Lee without moving his feet. India were 15 for 2 at the time chasing 289.
Rohit Sharma's extended run of poor form merits an immediate change in India's middle order; Manoj Tiwary is the man to step up.
During the Asia Cup – and there were plenty who questioned why he was even in the squad – Rohit walked out to the last ball of the 47th over and was run out in the need for quick runs. No issues there. In India’s next match, against Pakistan, he scored a fluent 68 to help India chase a target of 330. In the series opener in Sri Lanka, he was out for 5; he was late on the ball which hit the stumps through the gap. Today he dragged on for another duck.
What these innings show is a worrying trend that has dogged Rohit ever since he made his international debut in 2007 – inconsistency. That he is a slow starter is known; that he is more prone to getting starts and then throws them away is also no surprise. But with two single-digit scores in Sri Lanka in which Rohit has failed to get himself in the time may have come for him to be dropped.
The candidate to replace him in the middle is order is Bengal’s Manoj Tiwary, whose last ODI innings was a century against West Indies in December. Tiwary, 26, has been a passenger on the Indian team for a long time now. He didn’t have a great tour of the West Indies with India A but then no batsmen really set the run charts on fire. Tiwary had a decent IPL 5.
Ajinkya Rahane is also in the squad as a batsman but he is top-order player. Tiwary is a middle-order batsman and so should be the man to replace Rohit for the third ODI. He hasn’t really been spoken of as a serious candidate for a Test spot, with Rohit, Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara the more favoured names, but certainly in one-day cricket Tiwary needs an extended run. He surely can’t be worse than Rohit.