CHENNAI: Rohit Sharma has been threatening to arrive in whites for a decade now. From an injury on the morning of his debut in 2010 to a spectacular entry in 2013 to warming the bench and again missing out on action when he appeared to have cracked the code during the long home season of 2016-17 to not even making it to the tour of England last year, Rohit’s run in whites has been nothing but turbulent.
Every time Rohit has appeared to cement his place, he has seldom looked a part of it or rather has hardly convinced the team that he is the one. Besides the tour of South Africa and New Zealand in 2013, the elegant right-hander hasn’t played four Tests at a stretch. Since then, he has featured in an entire series only twice in his career: against Sri Lanka (2015) and New Zealand (2016). Had not been for his paternity leave mid-way through the Australia tour last year, he stood a good chance of lasting the entire four-match series.
Now, he is in Caribbean. Like throughout this phase, where he had to constantly compete with his Mumbai teammate Ajinkya Rahane, the toss-up is between the two for the first Test in Antigua, which starts on Thursday. And throw in Hanuma Vihari, who has made an impressive foray into the Test side, India have a task at hand to choose two from these three as Hardik Pandya’s absence leaves them with two openings.
Considering the recent trends in the Caribbean islands, the pitches will be tailor-made to suit their pace bowling resources and with India too boasting of a fearsome combo, picking five-bowlers will be one too many, which opens the option for India to field seven batsmen for their second successive Test following Sydney.
Indications from Caribbean are that Rohit is definitely in the plans and given how well equipped he is against pacers, India for the first time might actually give him a long rope. For a player, who loves playing shots, Rohit gives India something that others don’t. When he is set, there is hardly anyone who can match his calibre when it comes to piercing the gap and playing the short ball.
But there lies his problem too. Over 27-match Test career, Rohit has been guilty of playing one shot too many. He did it more recently in Adelaide, where after a spell-bounding cover-drive six off Pat Cummins, he fell trying to slog sweep Nathan Lyon.
Now all of it is behind him. Since then, he has been a different batsman. In World Cup, he looked to be on top of his game, one who understands his game more than ever and is at peace with fatherhood bringing some sort of more responsibility, if not maturity. There will be phases when Rohit might disappoint, but considering his competitor Rahane hasn’t been amongst runs, and the former’s authoritative batting, India have a choice to make.
But unlike before, when Rohit was picked over Rahane and Kohli was greeted to questions of ‘why’, the captain will be asked the same, if Rohit doesn’t get a place this time.
Pant to continue?
Even though Wriddhiman Saha made impressive runs for India A against West Indies A, he might not be a part of the XI. It is learnt that the management wants to persist with Rishabh Pant given his performances in England and Australia.