Will Rohit Sharma's red-ball dream get a top-up?
- Rohit made his debut in 2013 at Eden Gardens in Kolkata against the West Indies and scored 177, his highest Test score
- At 32, time is running out for the prolific Mumbaikar, who has mastered the art of whacking the white ball but not found the same success with the red one
VIZIANAGARAM: Rohit Sharma will flag off his new stint at the top of the order in red-ball cricket when he leads Board President’s XI against South Africa in a three-day game beginning on Thursday. For long one of India's premier openers in the limited overs set-up, can Rohit — who had a promising start to his Test career batting lower down — finally become a permanent feature in all three formats by moving up to the top of the order in Tests?
At 32, time is running out for the prolific Mumbaikar, who has mastered the art of whacking the white ball but not found the same success with the red one. Rohit made his debut in 2013 at Eden Gardens in Kolkata against the West Indies and scored 177, his highest Test score. He followed it up with an unbeaten 111 at his home ground of Wankhede Stadium in
Mumbai. The long-standing record of three centuries in three consecutive Tests on debut by former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin looked under threat but Rohit’s third century was to come only four years later. While he soared to greater heights with each innings in ODIs, Rohit just couldn’t get his bearing right in Tests.
Having been elbowed out of the middle order in Tests by the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and G Hanuma Vihari, the only place left for him is the opening slot. The Mumbai batsman took to opening in the limited-overs format as a duck to water, but opening in Tests is a different ball game. He has been a regular opener for India in ODIs since January 2013 and his hunger for runs in the limited overs game has only grown over the years. Can Rohit mould his game to succeed in Tests?
The legendary VVS Laxman too had a similar predicament early on in his career. With the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly in the team, Laxman found it difficult to find a regular place in the middle order. He tried his hand at opening and played 13 Tests as an opener, with a century and four halfcenturies. But the Hyderabadi was not comfortable as an opener and choose to give up opening. He worked hard and cemented his place in the middle order.
It remains to be seen how Rohit will shape up as an opener. But with the team management and the selectors backing him, Rohit is set to embark on a new innings. The first step in that direction is this tour game, to be played at the Dr PVG Raju ACA Sports Complex here from Thursday to Saturday.
Rohit is leading the side and all eyes will be on how he fares against the South African pacers ahead of the first Test to be held here from Oct 2. Rohit has always savoured a challenge and never shied away from the task. In fact, Rohit had started off as an offspinner in his school days but coach Dinesh Lad saw the youngsters’ potential with the willow and promoted him from No.8 to opening the innings. Rohit excelled in the Harris and Giles Shield school cricket tournaments, scoring a century on debut as an opener.
The going will not be easy for the right-handed batsman, but what better place to start off a new phase of his career than the City of Destiny. Incidentally, this is where his mother Purnima was born and brought up. The next few months are going to be tricky for Rohit. If he manages to succeed as an opener at home, it will not give him an automatic berth when the team goes abroad. He will again be tested against the moving ball in seaming conditions. However, a failure in the next few games could mean an end to his Test dreams.