Team India needs to plan for life beyond Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma

It is no secret that Indian cricket is in the mid of a transition period or on the way of seeing what the future of their team would look like. One of the chief questions for the Indian team though lies in who after Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli?

It is no secret that Indian cricket is in the mid of a transition period or on the way of seeing what the future of their team would look like. One of the chief questions for the Indian team though lies in who after Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli?

The duo might be around for some more time, as their call-up for the T20I series against Afghanistan in January suggested. But sooner or later, the younger crop will be taking over from the duo and take the team forward.

It shouldn’t be a complicated task considering the depth in talent in Indian cricket, but once Rohit and Virat leave the game, it will create a vacuum not seen before, which would be very hard to fill across all formats.

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The think tank of Indian cricket will have to plan very well for the next two or three years to set themselves well for life beyond Rohit and Virat. They will have to give consistent chances to youngsters so that they are mentally prepared for soaking in the pressure of playing a big tournament and rise to the occasion. One of the most important aspects for the transition in Indian cricket to come out perfectly will be communication.

If the powers in the know maintain communication with the players in the mix, give them clarity about the period of time and opportunities to be handed out in future as well as unbelievable backing irrespective of the results, then the evolution of Indian team can lead towards a team which produces consistent performances and eventually break the drought of a global trophy.

But there have been signs that India have tried to look for their options beyond Rohit and Virat. Once the Men’s ODI World Cup ended in a heartbreaking finale defeat for India, Rohit and Virat took a break from white-ball games of the South Africa tour. It gave options to the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee towards who could be their potential successors.

Left-handed opener B Sai Sudharsan, who has seen a sky-rocketing rise in his fortunes, started his ODI career with two back-to-back half-centuries in South Africa last month. He’s also been in the India ‘A’ setup for nearly six months.

With his easy on the eye stroke play and technique plus temperament getting huge applause, Sudharsan can be the one for future. Also, Ruturaj Gaikwad has shown that he can be a regular fixture based on his good showings in white-ball matches.

Yashasvi Jaiswal has been sparkling in his T20I and Tests showings, with his ODI debut certain to happen whenever the chance comes, so that he can be the next all-format batter for India along with Shubman Gill. Don’t be surprised if either of these three batters get selected into India’s squad for the 2025 Champions Trophy.

In terms of Test cricket, Rajat Patidar was called into the squad as Kohli pulled out of the first two matches due to personal reasons. Patidar, who bats at number three and four mainly, and made his ODI debut last month, was recently with India ‘A’ squad and made 151 off 158 balls in the first four-day match against England Lions in a pressure situation.

Then there’s Mumbai run-machine Sarfaraz Khan, who has been a prolific run-scorer, but hasn’t been able to crack into the Test team. He hit 96 against England Lions in the two-day warm-up match and 55 in the second innings of the four-day game.

More recently, he smashed 161 in the second four-day game. Also, in terms of openers, right-handed batter Abhimanyu Easwaran has been in the India ‘A’ setup for a long time and left-handed batter Devdutt Padikkal has also been in the mix alongside Sudarshan.

In the pre-match press conference, on being asked about giving Patidar a Test call-up, Rohit had eloquently spoken about the importance of giving youngsters an opportunity whenever a situation arises. Though Rohit was speaking about avoiding a situation of exposing youngsters to overseas conditions, one could sense that there was an element of transition too as part of the bigger picture.

“We actually did think about going back to an experienced player (to fill Kohli’s absence). But then when will the youngsters get their opportunity, and that’s something we thought as well. Leaving an experienced player or not considering them is very hard because of the amount of runs they have scored, the kind of experience they have had and the amount of games they have won for us. It’s very hard to ignore all of that.”

“But sometimes you get certain players into the set-up as well, and you have to give them favourable conditions, as you don’t want to expose or bring them directly on foreign tours, where they have not played before. That’s the thought behind all of that and it’s important to try and get some of these youngsters in whenever there’s an opportunity.”

“Again, by no means the doors are closed on anyone — as long as they stay fit and keep scoring runs, anyone will be welcomed back into the set-up. Having said that, it’s important to look at some of the other players as we don’t want to end up in a situation where seven to eight guys have barely 20-25 Test matches between themselves. So whenever you have the opportunity, give them some game time,” said Rohit.

Though a couple of years might appear a long time away for the Indian team, but when the period of transition beckons, it’s imperative to start working on it from the current time. Indian cricket had the ‘who next?’ question in their mind once stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman retired from the game.

Thankfully, it has always found the next batting stars at the right time. But to fill the void left by Rohit and Virat whenever in future, the stakeholders of Indian cricket need to start working quickly towards unearthing their successors so that there are no hiccups in life beyond them.

(IANS)