"You have to prepare for the conditions and the best preparation you can have is by going to that particular country and playing as many matches and have as many practice sessions as possible."
Rohit Sharma’s words during India’s England tour earlier this year reflect a commonly acknowledged mantra for teams to succeed in overseas Tests. India missed a golden opportunities to register overseas wins in South Africa and England in 2018 and the upcoming tour Down Under is a way for them to justify the tag of ‘best travelling team’, which their head coach Ravi Shastri bestowed upon them.
Preparation for the Australian expedition begins with the India A team embarking on a tour to New Zealand. The India A team under coach Rahul Dravid has a good blend of youth and experience that is scheduled to play three unofficial Tests and as many ODIs. “Shadow tours” before main overseas tours were ideated with an eye on players gaining match-time with hosts often putting together substandard quality teams for warm-up games.
The likes of Ajinkya Rahane, who will skipper the side in the first match, Murali Vijay, Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari and Rohit were initially part of the India A team for this tour. Rohit, recalled to the Test squad for the Australian tour – a move that raised a few eyebrows – as part of new plans, would now fly directly to Australia, missing the India A team's tour of New Zealand and directly feature in the three T20Is against the Aussies before a warm-up game ahead of the Test series citing workload issues.
It is true that Rohit has been playing continuous cricket for a while and needed a break. But does it imply that he sits out the tour of New Zealand with the A team? The Mumbai cricketer's Test career had gone for a toss after the South African tour in January and he was recalled to the Test squad for Australia given his current form, a huge factor for selection under this Indian management.
Rohit's current form, though, is in the shorter formats where he has been running amok for quite a few years now. While the rest was advised by BCCI Medical Team after consulting with the team management and selection committee, there was perhaps little thought put into which series he ought to have been given a break from. A look at Rohit's hectic recent schedule gives a hint about the concerns from the management's side.
Rohit's workload since home series against West Indies
ODIs against West Indies
21 October, 24 October, 27 October, 29 October,1 November.
T20Is against West Indies
4 November, 6 November, 11 November
India A tour of New Zealand (Rohit is not a part of the tour now)
16-19 November, 23-26 November, 30 November to 3 December
India - Australia T20Is
21 November,23 November and 25 November
India - Australia Tests
6-10 December, 14-18 December, 26-30 December, 3-7 January
Workload concerns were known to the selection committee and management even before the squads for the tours were announced and it made little sense to pick Rohit for the Australian Test series if he wasn't available to play the New Zealand A games with Rahul Dravid's side. It must be remembered that Rohit is still part of the T20I squad which plays three matches against Australia prior to the Tests and also played (and captained) in the recently concluded T20Is against West Indies at home.
While his talent has been widely acknowledged, Rohit hasn't quite established himself as a Test cricketer yet and the desperate attempt to make him a permanent member of the Test squad, should ideally have been backed-up by proper planning. If he was given break from either the West Indies T20Is or Australian T20Is, he would have had enough time off before travelling to New Zealand.
These “shadow tours” are a great team building exercise and while conditions in New Zealand do not really replicate what is in store in Australia, the players earn valuable game-time.
“We are trying to have shadow tours. We did it in England and we could obviously not do it in Australia, but it is great to go to New Zealand instead. these tours we can give the boys a better chance to prepare for an international series. It is exciting to have the senior boys with us. The objective for us is to prepare them for Australia and at the same time, the younger boys get an opportunity to share the dressing room with them. They will be able to gain some match-time experience even if the conditions are not going to be exactly the same or it is not like being in Australia,” Dravid had said before the team left from India.
If the management wanted to nurture Rohit the Test player, the ideal way would have been to send him to New Zealand with some of the other senior players by skipping a few meaningless bilateral T20Is.
Long overseas tours often throw up injury concerns, loss of form and a need for ready replacements is more often than not required. India A's England tour prior to the main team travelling there earlier this year threw up three such options - Shaw, Vihari and Rishabh Pant. All of them almost had a positive start to their Test career, with the latter two making the debut in England itself.
With Rohit's Test career needing some upliftment, he would miss out on a great learning experience under the guidance of Dravid. While conditions in New Zealand are bound to be different to that in Australia, if India are in need of an urgent replacement on their long tour, the first name that would probably be discussed is that of someone who has made runs on this New Zealand A tour. That guy could even jump the pecking order like Vihari did in England.
By mismanaging Rohit's workload, the management have denied the limited-overs star of a wonderful opportunity to resurrect his Test career, which received an unexpected lifeline when he was selected for the Australian tour. Come 6 December, if he walks into the Test side on the back of three T20Is and “current form”, could Rohit be blamed if he fails? Isn't a recipe for failure cooked up already with some ill-thought management?