Virat Kohli: Not looking to rush Rohit Sharma as Test opener at all
Visakhapatnam: This might appear Rohit Sharma's moment of reckoning, but the think-tank is not desperate for instant success as India's limited-overs vice-captain embraces a new role in Test cricket.
The first of three Tests against South Africa, starting at the ACA-VDCA Stadium here today, will be the Mumbai batsman's maiden appearance as red-ball opener. In 47 previous innings, he has batted primarily at No. 6 (25 occasions), at times at No. 5 (16), occasionally at No. 3 (5) and once at No. 4, but hasn't quite set the world afire despite beginning his Test career, belatedly, with centuries in his first two innings, as evidenced by a middling average of 39.62 from 27 matches.
Now, with KL Rahul's poor form creating an opening at the top, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri have been quick to push Rohit up the order, hoping that the move will allow the under-achieving Mumbaikar to replicate his white-ball heroics. "Clarity of role and knowing that you have to play in a certain position is very crucial for a player," Kohli said on match-eve. "For us, the communication happened a long while back; now we have a situation where the opportunity is there.
"We thought it's the ideal time to go ahead with it. In one-day cricket, he played in the middle-order, but then suddenly, the opening conversion happened, and you know what happened afterwards. If he can do what he's done in one-day cricket, then it's a great thing for him and Indian cricket."
At the same time, Kohli made it clear that there would be no pressure on Rohit to fire from the first dig onwards. "We're not looking to rush him at all, it's about him finding his game," he pointed out. "Opening is a slot where you have to give a player space to understand his own game. Playing at No. 6 requires you to play the old ball, and every now and then, you walk in to face the [second] new ball.
Great things expected
"The good thing with opening is that you know you're going to face the new ball. He's up for challenge, and we're pretty confident that he will find this game sooner rather than later. Once he's in his zone, he can do great things for the team."
Abhimanyu Easwaran and Priyank Panchal have been scoring tons of runs domestically and for India 'A' as specialist openers, but Kohli explained why the management had deemed it fit to elevate Rohit to an unfamiliar position. "We have a Test championship to look forward to. Rohit's been in the Test set up for a long time. It's about providing him with the opportunity to find his game, find that template he wants to in Test cricket. If he comes into his own, then the batting order looks completely different. It becomes even more lethal."
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