Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Former India batsman VVS Laxman believes that Rohit Sharma should open the batting for the national team during the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
This is because Laxman feels that the pace-friendly pitches in Australia and New Zealand will suit Sharma’s style of batting.
However, Ajinkya Rahane has already made a strong case for himself to open the batting, especially after he scored his maiden Test century against England in the fourth ODI in Birmingham.
But, Laxman believes that Rahane should be slotted somewhere in the middle of the batting line-up so that he can hold the innings together in case the top order collapses.
“The wickets in Australia will suit him [Rohit],” Laxman told ESPNcricinfo. “He had a successful ODI series in 2007 when he was young and inexperienced. His style of batting will suit Australian conditions, so I will definitely go back to Rohit and have Rahane as a back-up but play him in the middle order.”
One player who Laxman thinks will really excel during the World Cup is batsman Suresh Raina, who was named Man of the Series in the recently concluded ODI series against England, which India won 3-1.
During the ODI series, Raina scored 160 runs, which included one century, at a brilliant average of 53.33. He also took four wickets at a respectable average of 29.25.
“He is a very important player because not only is he a good batsman but he is also an exceptional fielder, who lifts the entire team on the field,” Laxman said. “He is also a useful bowler, who has the knack of taking wickets at crucial times.”
Laxman is also not too worried about Virat Kohli’s form with the bat. Kohli failed to impress in both the Test and ODI series, where he scored 134 runs at a dismal average of 13.40 and 54 runs at a dreary average of 18 respectively.
However, Kohli did turn things around in the one-off Twenty20 International in Birmingham as he smashed a scintillating 66.
“It’s good that he is having a break before the series against West Indies and isn’t part of the Champions League because this time away will allow him to reflect on what has happened and come back stronger,” Laxman said. “He is a very hard working young cricketer and I am sure that he will bounce back. It’s a matter of time before he starts scoring runs like the way he has over the last few years.”
Laxman also pointed out that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) should allow former captain Ravi Shastri to continue being the national team’s director of cricket.
In addition to that, Laxman was also impressed with the impact Sanjay Bangar, B Arun and R Sridhar had as assistant coaches. The trio were called up after Shastri decided to give bowling coach Joe Dawes and fielding coach Trevor Penney a break.
“I am hoping the BCCI will stick to the support staff we had for the one-dayers till the World Cup,” Laxman said. “The tournament is only six months away so there isn’t enough time to chop and change.
“I have worked with Ravi Shastri in 2007 when we toured Bangladesh and he is a very positive person, immense knowledge of the game, he was himself a great leader for Mumbai and he captained India in one Test that India won convincingly. I am glad Bharat Arun and R Sridhar got their opportunity to coach at the highest level because they have a good track record at the India A and Under-19 level, and Sanjay Bangar because of his recent success with Kings XI Punjab.”
Even though India won the ODI series 3-1, India would consider their tour of England more of a failure than a success since they were thrashed 3-1 in the five-Test series and lost the one-off Twenty20 International by three runs.
However, Laxman believes that all the players, especially the younger ones, will have learnt valuable lessons from the tour.
“I have always regarded tours of South Africa, Australia and England as important for a team to become better,” he said. “I am sure the Indian players have learned, the way they bounced back showed a lot of character and definitely they will turn into much better players.”
But, Laxman stated that the Indian players “should not read too much into this one-day series win because the England side was not very good or competitive.”
He added that the one area the national team desperately need to focus on is death bowling.
“In the T20 they gave away 50 runs in the last three overs, which is a lot, so I think these two issues are a problem,” he said. “Luckily for India they are playing a tri-series before the World Cup and that too against the Australians in their own backyard. It will be a good experience for the players to get used to the conditions.”
Laxman was also quick to reject rumours that the BCCI care more about ODIs and Twenty20 Internationals than they do about Tests. In fact, the legendary batsman claimed that Test cricket was the “number one priority” of the BCCI.
“I know for a fact that players like Kohli, Rahane, Pujara, Dhawan take a lot of pride in what they do in Tests and more so in overseas conditions,” he said. “You’ve seen the way M Vijay adapted to the Test series, he didn’t play his natural game, played with a lot of controlled aggression. So they focus on Tests and I don’t agree that they don’t give enough emphasis to Tests.
“The way the BCCI is organising A tours to countries such as Australia, England and New Zealand and the exposure being given to youngsters is also very important. I am sure importance is given to Test cricket.”