Kohli, Yadav repay faith

Selectors will do well to give young guns reasonably long rope

The nature of sport is so unforgiving that it demands ushering in young talent after a certain period of time, making it mandatory to bid goodbye to the old guard.

The Indian team management and the Board of Control for Cricket in India find themselves in such a position after India’s humiliating 0-3 series defeat against Australia with a Test at Adelaide remaining.

Sometimes, this can be a tricky period because of the absence of enough young talent to come in for the outgoing stalwarts, and Australia found that out the hard way when legends like Matthew Hayden, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne retired en masse.

But India certainly will not face such a vacuum as talented batsmen like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Suresh Raina are waiting in the wings to step into the big shoes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who formed the backbone of Indian batting collectively for more than 15 years.

It’s important for the authorities to give them the right amount of chances in Tests at the earliest against the backdrop of the disasters in England and Australia. It’s true that Kohli, Raina and Rohit have proved their skills beyond doubt in one-dayers, but Test cricket is a vastly different proposition.

The struggles of Kohli in Tests before showing some heartening progress in Perth with two gritty knocks underlines the fact that innings-building is not an inherent quality but something a batsman needs to cultivate. There was a lot of pressure to drop Kohli after his modest run in the away and home series against the West Indies, and the cries got only intensified after the Delhi lad failed to make an impression in the first two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.

But the team management made its intentions clear while persisting with Kohli for the Perth Test. It was a firm statement of belief in Kohli’s ability, and the desire to invest in him for the future. The right-hander didn’t disappoint, battling it out against a group of aggressive fast bowlers, a tough WACA pitch and hot conditions to bring up quality knocks of 44 and 75.

They reflected his growing confidence, patience to stay at the crease, and more importantly the ability to leave alone balls outside the off-stump, an important part of batting in Test cricket. He has to further develop those qualities along with his technique against short-pitched ball if he desires to cement his place in the Test squad.

West Indian quick Fidel Edwards, and Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle of Australia have exposed Kohli’s discomfort against the rising ball on a few occasions, and rectifying it soon will play a massive part in his effort to step in for a generation of players who took immense pride in their overseas performances.

The team management has shown the courage to persist with Kohli despite calls for his ouster, and Umesh Yadav is another youngster who benefited by the wisdom of the powers that be. Handed a debut against the West Indies in November last year, Yadav made an impression with his pace in that series.

The Vidarbha pacer had the extremely difficult task of justifying the expectations on him in Australia, and by plucking 12 wickets from three Tests, including his maiden five-wicket haul, Yadav has done his reputation no harm, though his economy rate is slightly on the higher side at 4.5. But the team management’s assurance of him being a part of the entire series has reflected in his outings here, taking on the likes of David Warner, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey with a lot of confidence.

India’s next away series is against South Africa in 2013, and to think that the seniors will be around that time to shore up the team will be a bit naïve.

The bigwigs should show the same brave attitude they showed with Kohli and Yadav in giving more chances to Rohit, Pujara and Rahane at the Test level.

The home series against New Zealand in August-September will be a good time to start this process to ensure that such embarrassments don’t recur when India go abroad the next time.

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