Will Rohit Sharma meet the red cherry challenge in Australia?

India’s tour Down-Under could be the final straw for the prodigious batsman’s stop-start Test career and the best opportunity to save it from flatlining.

Published - December 05, 2018 05:00 pm IST

Will Rohit Sharma’s rich vein of form carry him over his Test hurdle?

Will Rohit Sharma’s rich vein of form carry him over his Test hurdle?

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In one contiguous motion, he rocked back onto the backfoot and elegantly fended the short ball to the fence for four. Somewhere in the background, the unmistakeable strains of Jagjit Singh’s “Baat Niklegi To Phir… Door Talak Jayegi”. Let alone ghazals, symphonies could be written around his batting.

There are days when he smothers the ball with a fluidity that reminds you of the cascade of a waterfall. Then, there are days when he leaves a ball directed at middle-stump and walks pavillionwards with a bewildered look. Being a Rohit Sharma–fan can be tough, especially in a country where opinion is prone to be polarised. Predictably unpredictable, he could turn up in a regal robe or shabby weekend rags, but you never know which of them is on display until he plays ball one.

All that said about a prodigy who has the world raving, Rohit’s feats in Test cricket have been mediocre at best. There are the odd flashes of brilliance — some jaw-dropping shots were played during Sachin Tendulkar’s final Test match against West Indies, a stroke-filled 102 against Sri Lanka around this time last year at Nagpur and a back-to-the-wall defiant knock in South Africa earlier this year. None of them, though, had the class and finesse he displays against the white ball.

His career in Tests has been a stop-start affair, primarily because the boundless talent has failed to manifest itself into runs. Being sized up against a formidable Test line-up has often seen Rohit sidelined, much to the dismay of his aficionados, who just cannot have enough of him. It is frustrating when the nonchalant cover drive and indifferent flick do not translate into what eventually matters — runs.

With critics calling out his technical deficiencies against the moving ball and opposition think-tanks wise to his “compulsive pull”, Rohit’s career in whites has made up for one of the better weekend reads. Yet, as is the case with most talented players, a glimpse of what he really is capable of prompts you to back him over and over again.

The inclusion in the Test side for the Australian tour came even as the likes of Karun Nair and Hanuma Vihari were controversially omitted from the middle-order during the recent series against West Indies. There was hue and cry. But there were also experts who believed his time in Test cricket would come and that Australia could be it. At 31, Rohit’s career is at no crossroads. As he himself admits, he is at an age where “it's all about enjoying the game”.


“I got into the national team when I was 20 and I made my Test debut when I was 26. I had an opportunity to make my debut in 2010, but I missed that (due to a freak injury while playing football at practice). After that, it made me realise that the more you want, your attitude changes. I have realised there's time for everything.

“There has to be time and a slot available for it. The seniors — Sachin, Rahul, VVS and Sourav — were all playing then so we had to wait. After a point, I realised there's no point thinking about [selection]. No point in thinking about what the selectors are doing and all,” Rohit said recently after he was omitted from the Test squad post the South Africa tour.

The carefree attitude is perhaps a boon and a bane for Rohit. It has led to mountains of runs in limited-overs cricket. But it has also made for a less-than-diligent approach towards the longest format of the game. While he is at an age where selection issues barely perturb him, the fact that he needs to fine-tune his long-format game in time for the Test matches seems to have escaped the ODI opener, who chose to play the six T20Is against the Windies and Australia but sidestepped the first-class matches of India A’s tour of New Zealand under Rahul Dravid.

These “shadow tours” are usually a great team-building exercise, aside from a golden opportunity to play under the watchful eyes of Dravid. “From Indian cricket’s perspective, by organising 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,” Dravid had said before the tour, and rightly so, given that three from the last shadow tour — Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant — are vital cogs in India’s current Test squad.



Rohit, though, skipped the games and heads into the Tests after a day spent in whites against a depleted Cricket Australia XI. In many ways, this Australian tour is a big one for Rohit Sharma’s red-ball career. The selectors have been patient with him and have recalled him to the side at every opportunity, a leeway that was afforded to him even before his ODI career exploded. It is, therefore, perhaps this belief, that Rohit can at any point turn it all around and send his graph skyrocketing, that prompts his recall every time to the Test side. But his wasted chances have mounted high, and placing even a featherweight on top of his dismal record in this format is liable to close the doors forever.

Under the aggressive leadership of Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, against a hurt and soft Australian side on the true batting wickets Down Under, this is perhaps Rohit’s chance to move his Test career into third, fourth and fifth gear. If it happens, it may not change anything about the way his inadequacies are viewed. But if it does not, it is unlikely that another straw would be handed out to him.

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