Only hiding place is out of the team
As Ajinkya Rahane replaced Virender Sehwag for the 3rd ODI, a lot changed for Team India. The collective run count of the playing XI dropped by nearly 8000 runs, team experience was down by 200 plus games and the average age too fell substantially. Going purely by the scoreboard, Rahane's contribution to the team was a boundary (he ran a wayward ball to the third-man fence during his 11-ball 4) and a dropped catch.
But those who saw India's diving, sprawling, throwing, clapping in the 'inner circle' as they defended 167 would agree that he did much better. The 24-year-old's contribution needed to measured in joules, the unit physicists use to quantify energy. Rahane, with Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja around him, formed a human wall that was tough to scale for the Pakistan batsmen. In the early part of the innings, the two 20-somethings pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed were made to look much shaper than they actually were, as the buzzing 30-yard circle was managing several dot balls. Suddenly, Yuvraj Singh, the original point man,wasn't among the fielding team's fab four. Gautam Gambhir was on the fence while Sehwag's stiff back wasn't being missed.
During India's Australia tour last year, Dhoni had spoken about his headache of hiding the "slow seniors" on the field. Since then, life has become tougher for him and all other ODI skippers that had aging men with wobbly legs in their ranks. According to the new rule, there can't be more than four fielders guarding the fence. With the change, the perimeter of a sprawling oval was where young and fresh legs were posted. It was certainly not a safe hideout for tired old-timers waiting for their fielding ordeal to get over.
On Sunday at Kotla, Dhoni's inner circle saved about 20 runs, and that made the difference. A win achieved by the collective effort of the youngsters was what the doctor ordered. A Sehwag 100 at best would have helped the out-of-form opener individually. The defence of the modest target lifts the spirit of the entire dressing room.