The openers are supposed to complement each other. It is not going to work if only one of them is going to score boundaries while the other blocks his way to ensure his place in the side is not jeopardised. Since starting as opener, here is a list of his ODI innings in countries other than India. The format used is *(Runs)(24 balls)* and *(Runs)(Balls played)*. The list is in reverse chronological order. If India was victorious in the match, it is indicated with a (W) in the final column.
Conclusion: Rohit Sharma wastes too many bowls at the beginning of his innings and is thus not an ideal ODI player. A List A average of only 36.77 is testament to the fact. The fact that India has a relatively weak bowling attack and is thus either chasing huge scores or needs to set a substantial target only exacerbates the problem.
Solutions: Ask Rahane to open. He has displayed maturity in opening the innings at IPL. If he doesn’t want to open, ask him to suck it up and open for the team’s sake. Even Sehwag did it, even though he always wanted to play in the middle order. If it does not work out, the two left field options are Utthappa or Unmukt. Gambhir’s return would also not be a bad idea at all, he has proven himself to be a very capable cricketer.
The #4 Spot
Yuvraj Singh has been shambolic since his comeback, Raina simply does not have the patience or the class to build an innings and Rayadu (the current contender in the squad) does not inspire enough confidence against the moving ball. While Rahane can prove to be an option, in my opinion, it would be better to ask Rahane to open with Dhawan with Pujara occupying the #4 spot. A list A average of 54.57 (not to mention the immense class he has shown in the test arena) suggests that he has the technique and the mental ability to build an innings.
In the last year (26 matches) he has 32 wickets from 26 matches at an average of 38.18 and RPO of 5.27. In all matches (38) outside India, he has 41 wickets at an average of 38.82 with an RPO of 4.97. Given that his batting style is more suited to the test arena anyway (not to mention his pathetic fielding), he does not deserve a place in the Indian ODI team. Better options would be Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha (as spinners) or Rishi Dhawan, Irfan Pathan and Stuart Binny (seaming all rounders and in that order).
Much as he is derided Ishant Sharma is not the root cause of our problems at this level. We suffer from a collective malaise where our fast bowlers are not good enough. An average of 31.44 at en economy of 5.72 suggests that Ishant is not a very bad bowler, just an average one. These bowlers can fill in the complementary roles in teams, but our problem lies in the fact that he often turns out be the best (or the least worst) performer in our ODI team.
With Shami we seem to have found a bowler who can hustle the batsmen though he is equally prone to leaking runs in the latter part of the game. Sadly, Umesh Yadav has been seriously disappointing with his line and length in the limited version of the game. I would prefer if the likes of Varun Aaron are given a go. From what I’ve seen of him so far, he looks like a very capable bowler (he came across as a better bowler than Umesh, though that is not saying much). Sadly, his performances in the last two games have been disappointing.
Regrettably, our tactics have been to defend rather than look for wickets. Perhaps, we simply do not have the bowlers but if that is the case, we need to look for new bowlers. At this stage, our bowlers are neither capable of defending nor attacking.
I will probably be ridiculed for reiterating this but the problem with our ODI team was not Ishant Sharma. The problem was the collective failure of our bowlers to take wickets, and Ishant was not the biggest contributor to that problem. Bhuvi is no longer providing us with regular breakthroughs at the beginning of his spell, while Shami and company have been generous at the death. Ashwin is not taking any wickets to justify his place in the side.
Not to mention the elephant in the room, which is our batting. Even in the series against Australia, our middle order was poor and it continues to be so. There, the top order saved us. Here, a misfiring top order has been a huge problem. Sharma does not know how to rotate strike, Dhawan seems to not want to stay at the crease long enough to actually do something while whoever we play at 4 and 6 (or 5, depending on Dhoni’s mood) seem to be perpetually ineffective to the point that they appear cursed. India desperately needs a number 4 who can bat and a 6 who is technically sound.
Get back Dhawan to open, get Pujara at 4, move Sharma at 6 and tell Rahane that if he wants to play he has to open.
As for bowling, change the spinner. Ashwin is not taking wickets. Give Mishra a chance. For fast bowlers, god only knows what to do. Maybe annex Pakistan or Steph Curry.