How Rohit’s no-frills decisions beat Baseball

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While Stokes’ captaincy has grabbed all the attention, Rohit has achieved better results with more straightforward options.

Some choices seem obvious, but at the time of making them they are nothing. For example, it wasn’t so long ago that Kuldeep Yadav vs Washington Sundar felt like a legitimate debate. India was trailing 1-0, having lost an undefeated Test in Hyderabad, and going into the second Test in Visakhapatnam, with Ravindra Jadeja and KL Rahul out, snatching 119 Test caps from an already depleted line-up Was taken.

India was bringing in a debutant to replace Rahul, but how will they replace the irreplaceable Jadeja? He was not only one of their two main spinners but also their regular No. 6 and top scorer in the first innings at Hyderabad. Will they bring in Kuldeep, a brilliant, wicket-taking wrist spinner who was yet to be proven in Test cricket, or will they hedge their bets with Washington, an all-rounder who could have come in at No. 6 but was much lower down? Jadeja as a bowler?

How Rohit's no-frills decisions beat Baseball
How Rohit’s no-frills decisions beat Baseball

When Jadeja returned for the third Test in Rajkot, it still seemed legitimate to ask who would go in to accommodate him. Will it be Kuldeep, or will it be Akshar Patel? Around the same time in 2023, the same question was looming when Australia was touring India and Axar had won thanks to his batting and fast, finger-curling style inside the wicket.

Axar’s bowling returns had declined since then, but he averaged over 50 with the bat in the same period. Axar was dismissed by Kuldeep in Visakhapatnam, but it was only a Test and his first since December 2022. India this time backed Kuldeep and dropped Akshar.

However, the options followed a logic that was easy to understand if you followed India for any length of time. Home or away, India chooses the attack that is likely to take 20 wickets, even if it is at the expense of their batting – even the exceptions to this rule, Axar and Shardul Thakur lost their places when their wicket-taking returns declined. India followed this broad philosophy during the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri regime, and they stuck to it under the leadership of Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid as well.

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