Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli before, Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid now. Both duos have talked about backing players with potential, only to see the player in question being dropped, moved around the batting order or rested. It is not a new phenomenon though. It is something that has been happening in Indian cricket for quite some time. Whether it is the outside pressure, management's decisions, or the selector's call, the talk about backing has seldom been executed.
300 & 3D Players
The earliest example is Karun Nair. After his magnificent innings of 300 against England in Chennai, Kohli stated that Ajinkya Rahane would eventually come back into the side, but with the triple century, Nair had all but sealed his place. Some three-odd Tests later, Nair was dropped from the team, never to make it back again.
Ambati Rayudu was backed to the moon before the ODI World Cup in 2019 but was suddenly dropped from the playing 11 when the team took the flight to England. Not even a single player was backed at number four till the 2019 World Cup, and it came back to bite the team. How Vijay Shankar suddenly, out of nowhere, became team's first-choice at number 4, is a mystery till date.
Enter Dravid, Rohit
Under Dravid and Rohit, Harshal Patel was an integral part of the team leading up to the T20 World Cup but came the mega-event, he was nowhere to be found in the playing 11. Rishabh Pant, as Rahul Dravid stated, was an integral part of the team, but was dropped in favor of Dinesh Karthik.
The latest example of this lack of strong decision-making was seen when Suryakumar Yadav returned with two consecutive Golden Ducks against Australia in the recently-concluded ODI series. Both Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma said that players with potential like Suryakumar Yadav will be given a long rope so that they do not feel like they weren't given enough opportunities.
The last ODI saw Suryakumar Yadav bat at number 7, a position in which he had never batted before for India in ODIs. In times when Rishabh Pant is out injured indefinitely, Shreyas Iyer is potentially out for a long time, and the fact that the selectors aren't even thinking of Sanju Samson, one would think and believe what Rohit and Dravid stated after the 2nd ODI, but no, it was all talk.
Yes, Suryakumar Yadav has been in poor form in ODIs, but if there was any intent behind Rohit's statement of backing players with potential, there was no reason whatsoever, to move Sky down the order. It wasn't as if the team sent a left-hander to counter Australia's bowling. It was KL Rahul who came in at number 4, a batsman who himself is struggling to make runs.
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One can only understand that the management wanted him to go hammers and tongs from ball one when he came down the batting order. But, on the other hand, it sends out the wrong message. The management doesn't consider Sky as a worthy anchor who can attack later on and play a long innings. Rohit stated they had kept him for the final 10-15 overs, but why a sudden change in role, particularly during a time, when your number 4 slot, after Iyer''s injury, in a World Cup, is back wide open?
One thing is clear, if players are to be backed, they need to be backed to the moon. There are no two ways about it. This kind of backing, won't do any good. Not to the player, not the team.