Will Rohit Sharma click at the top in Tests? Past makeshift openers weigh in
- In 27 Tests, Rohit has scored 1,585 runs at an average of 39.62 with three hundreds and 10 fifties.
- Twice before the team management has failed to 'settle' the attractive stroke-player in Tests.
- During India's 2014-15 tour to Australia, Rohit batted at No. 3 in place of Pujara, and then at No. 5, instead of Rahane.
MUMBAI: He may have got another lease of life in Test cricket by being included as an opener for India's three-match home series against South Africa, but the jury is still out on whether Rohit Sharma, perhaps one of the finest limited-overs batsmen ever, will finally succeed in the longest format.
For the moment, it seems that the team management, chief selector MSK Prasad, former India skipper Sourav Ganguly, and Sanjay Bangar, team India's batting coach till a few days back, all feel that the 32-year-old, who has scored three double hundreds and four T20I centuries, will find his mojo as a Test opener, too.
However, skeptics like former India wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia, who scored 152 against Australia at the Ferozeshah Kotla in the Capital while batting as a makeshift opener, are yet to be convinced about Rohit's 'coming soon, 2.0 avatar' in Test cricket.
"Opening is a specialized job, like 'keeping. He's been opening in limited-overs cricket, but Test cricket requires a massive adjustment in mindset. Unless, of course, he decides to stick to what he does in limited-overs cricket - go for the ball. He must stick to his strengths, rather than change his game according to Test cricket. If he does that, it may affect his limited-overs game," Mongia told TOI.
Mongia feels that by including Rohit as opener, the selectors have not dealt a fair deal to the likes of Abhimanyu Easwaran (4,067 runs in 52 First Class matches @ 49.59) and Priyank Panchal (6,186 runs in 87 FC matches @ 54.14), who have done well for Bengal and Gujarat respectively.
"Why not give chances to those who've scored 1,000-800 runs in a season as an opener? The likes of Panchal and Easwaran are averaging 50-60 in domestic cricket. When are they going to get a chance? It's demotivating for them," argued Mongia.
In 27 Tests, Rohit has scored 1,585 runs at an average of 39.62 with three hundreds and 10 fifties. Twice before the team management has failed to 'settle' the attractive stroke-player in Tests. During India's 2014-15 tour to Australia, Rohit batted at No. 3 in place of Cheteshwar Pujara, and then at No. 5, instead of Ajinkya Rahane.
There are a couple of factors which could give Rohit immense confidence in his new role. He scored a record five hundreds in the World Cup in England, where the ball moves around all day, and his Test average at home - where he's accumulated 769 runs in nine Tests - is an astounding 85.44.
With the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Hanuma Vihari having sealed their spot in the middle-order by scoring consistently in West Indies, this, really, could be the Mumbaikar's last chance in Tests. Parthiv Patel, who has been there and done that (open the batting whenever he was asked to), backs the move. "In Indian conditions, the best place to bat in Test cricket is in the opening position. The ball doesn't move much. It comes at a good height. The teams are always attacking, so your chances to score increase," Parthiv said.