Great chance for domestic stars, asserts Raina

Cricket Indias tour of the West Indies: Fletcher puts rotation policy on hold

“It’s a great opportunity for youngsters who have done well in domestic cricket. I hope they will do well,” said the 25-year-old at the pre-departure media conference of the team here on Tuesday, sitting alongside newly-appointed chief coach Duncan Fletcher.

The Indian team will be playing the one-day series without Gautam Gambhir, prolific opener Virender Sehwag and man-of-the-tournament in the World Cup Yuvraj Singh, all out with injuries.

Regular skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and senior pacer Zaheer Khan have been rested keeping in mind the gruelling two-and-a-half month tour of England starting in July.

“I am really honoured to be leading the side. I am happy with the side as we have some very good batsmen in Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, S Badrinath and Shikhar Dhawan, all of whom have done well in first-class cricket.

“Badrinath especially has done well in first-class cricket and deserves to be in the team. I hope we will do well in the West Indies,” said Raina, who will hand over the reins to Dhoni for the three-Test series.

The Indians start the tour with a lone T20 international at Port of Spain on June 4. Coach Fletcher said he had followed the rotation system when he was the England coach and received criticism from authorities. He therefore wants to go slow with the policy.

“While I was in England, I started the rotation policy resting senior guys. I was heavily criticised by the English authorities. It’s important to do that, considering the heavy schedule. We need to look into the matter as we go into the future,” said the Zimbabwe-born Fletcher, for whom it will be his first assignment after taking over from Gary Kirsten.

“There is a lot of talent in India and my job is to prepare these youngsters. It’s a pleasure to blood them in ODIs,” said Fletcher. Asked about the club-versus-country debate, Fletcher said it’s not specific to cricket.

“That’s the way it is in modern-day sports. We have to ensure that all the players are fit enough,” he said. Raina said the Indian team had done very well over the last three years, having climbed to the top among Test nations and winning the World Cup after 28 years.

“There’s always pressure and we have done well under pressure. We have done well over the last three years and have won the World Cup. It’s for us as players to execute the plans of the coach well. We have to play our natural game,” he said.

Fletcher did not see the trip as an easy outing, though the West Indies are not the same force they were in the 70s and 80s.

“Any team playing at home is difficult to beat. We should not be complacent,” said the new coach, who said he intended not to look too far ahead in his job.

Fletcher admitted that beating England and Australia in their den will be the biggest challenge but as of now, the focus was on the Caribbean tour.

“Yes, we would like to beat England in England and Australia in Australia.

“But the first job is the tour of West Indies. It’s very important not to look too far down the road. India have a plan to stay at the top. The young players have the potential and this tour will show the depth of talent we have,” he said.

Raina said the West Indies had some good all-rounders in Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo. Asked about the likely return of Chris Gayle after the first two one-dayers for which he had been left out, the southpaw said his team had R Ashwin to counter the threat from the West Indian opener.

“We have Ashwin. It’s a good challenge for us,” said Raina about his Chennai Super Kings team-mate’s success-rate in the IPL against Gayle. He credited Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Dhoni for learning the ropes of captaincy. “I learnt a lot about captaincy from Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and Dhoni. They have captained with a lot of honesty,” he said.

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