It was indeed a patience game for veteran Rohit Sharma to remain in the Indian cricket team Test squad of late but not get many chances. A few did come in his way at number six in South Africa (2018) and Australia (2018-19) respectively. But Rohit warmed the bench of late and hence missed the Test series against West Indies last month.
When you have such a talented batsman waiting to play Test cricket it somehow is pretty perplexing in nature. Since the start of 2017, the senior cricketer played just six Tests in total. This itself highlights the irony of the situation. In this period, India struggled in the opening department and had to change and shuffle batsmen in a dramatic fashion.
Many established names were shown the door. And the management’s decision to persist with someone like a KL Rahul backfired badly. One can say that the Indian cricket team management was scared to try Rohit as an opener. Or perhaps, Ravi Shastri & CO. were lingering in a comfort zone to hope the opening combinations chosen worked.
To be the number one choice in limited-overs and not be a regular in the red-ball format is often taxing. Also, to see someone like a KL Rahul not performing consistently and yet getting chances was another hard pill to swallow. This often takes away a lot in the mental space of things. Rohit is by far the best limited-overs opener in the recent years.
His runs, approach and match-winning abilities serve as a testament. To then be left out of the Test team is somehow baffling. In this article we decode what Rohit needs to do in order to cement his place in the Test team as an opener.
Rahul’s omission opens a door for Rohit
With Rahul failing in the series against West Indies recently, the selectors finally drew sense and dropped the opener for the upcoming series against South Africa, starting October 2. Rohit was named in the side as expected but what materialised for him was he has been given the onus to open. This is huge for the star Indian batsman.
Rahul managed scores of 44, 38, 13 and 6 in two Tests against the Windies. He wasted opportunities to convert starts in the first Test in Antigua and then failed miserably in the next game in Jamaica. Rahul also couldn’t manage a 50+ score since his 149 against England at The Oval in 2018.
“KL (Rahul) is definitely a great talent. Of course, he is going through a bit tough time in Test cricket. We are definitely concerned about his form. He needs to spend more time on the wicket and regain his touch and form,” said BCCI chief selector MSK Prasad.
With Rahul needing to find form, the door for Rohit is open to cash in and stake a claim. This will lift Team India.
Rohit needs to make his presence felt
Now since he has got the chance to showcase his skills atop, Rohit will be keen to not throw the opportunity away. There are three Tests and six innings in store for him to set the tone. In order to cement his place, the veteran needs to be patience. Perhaps, he should take a leaf out of Hanuma Vihari, in particular. The idea will be to go in with a positive mindset and play your natural game.
Rohit is a master in ODIs and T20Is and has all the runs and records under his belt. He is fluent and knows the pace of the game. Test cricket is different and it will challenge him against the top quality Proteas attack. However, experience, presence of mind and playing as per merit will help him at large.
He knows what to expect and what’s expected out of him. Therefore, there is no reason why the versatile batsman won’t succeed in the longest format consistently.
Application a must for veteran Rohit
Rohit is a sound batsman technical wise and that will help his game. The application against the hard ball will be key and maintaining his individuality will be essential as well. India can use his style of play to attack the opposition. This will prove to be handy when India chase big totals. He can set a strong base when required and take the game away from the opponent.
However, patience is something that will get Rohit some much needed confidence. Against the Proteas, his major task will be to get a fine tuning with fellow opener Mayank Agarwal. Together, they can set the tempo.
Rohit will also be wary of the threat someone like a Shubman Gill possesses. The youngster has been selected in the squad as the third opening choice. He is the in-form batsman and can be called upon if something goes awry. Therefore, this will be a crucial phase for Rohit to negotiate the offerings SA have in store for him.
Rohit gets the backing from batting coach Rathour
India’s new batting coach Vikram Rathour has showed his confidence in Rohit and has backed him to shine as an opener in Test cricket. He wants to give Rohit all the opportunities in store and see him succeed.
“Rohit is one of the greats of white-ball cricket but has had a start-stop Test career. He has been given another opportunity in the five-day format, this time as an opener in the upcoming series against South Africa,” he said to PTI.
“He is too good a player to not be playing in any game. That is what is everyone is thinking. He has done so well in white-ball cricket as an opener so there is no reason why he can’t succeed as a Test opener provided he gets enough opportunities,” Rathour added.