Rohit Sharma’s return to Test match cricket witnessed the 32-year old batsman piling on runs in both the innings, scoring mammoth 176 and 127 runs in first and second innings respectively in his new batting position as an opener against South Africa in the just-concluded Test match at Vishakhapatnam.
KL Rahul’s failure to justify his place in the side as an opener in spite of getting many chances and opportunities at the top of the order meant the Indian team management had no other choice but to replace the Karnataka batsman with someone else for the home series against South Africa.
While Sharma has been a tremendously successful player for India in white-ball cricket, his inability to convert his enormous potential into performances in Test Cricket so far has not only been strange, but also hard to explain.
However, having said that, the experiment to try Sharma as an opener in Tests has worked wonders and paid rich dividends in his very first opportunity in his new role, bringing a sense of delight and relief at the same time for Virat Kohli and Co.
It is true that Rohit Sharma, after being pushed to the opening slot in limited overs cricket in early 2013, has truly transformed into a player everyone thought he would become when he first came on to the scene in international cricket in 2007-08. As an opener, can the same happen with him in Test cricket too?
Well, that might be a point of debate for some other day, but the main question here is ‘is Rohit Sharma the perfect opener India were looking for in Tests?’ and that is much more relevant as far as the fortunes of India’s batting in Tests is concerned.
From the proceedings that unfolded in the first Test and by a general sense of cricketing logic, the answer to the concerned question is definitely a yes and here are the reasons why:
He’s a senior in international cricket
Even though Sharma has consistently featured in the Indian team since 2012, he has been around in the international circuit for over 12 years now. Neither is he a novice at the international level nor at the Test level and that reflected in the way he carried himself, guiding the youngster Mayank Agarwal all the way through their glorious opening stand in the first innings at Vishakhapatnam.
Opening the batting, especially in Test matches, is a highly vulnerable task and a newcomer is bound to be anxious and circumspect, being overwhelmed by the occasion most of the times. However, Sharma has already seen it all in international cricket and being a vastly experienced campaigner, the Mumbai batsman would be an indispensable resource for the team at the top of the order in Tests.
Though he is not getting any younger, he is still just 32 and can handle the responsibility of being an opener in Tests for a decent amount of time if he succeeds in his new role, thereby solving the immediate problem of team India’s think-tank.
His ability to score daddy hundreds
In Rohit Sharma, India have a talented player who has an enormous ability to score daddy hundreds and his three double hundreds in ODI cricket is further testimony to his habit of carrying on and on once he records a century on the board.
Even in India’s first innings at Vishakhapatnam, the way he carried on after his hundred, raising the tempo of his game to vanquish the opponent was incredible, something the Indian team has been missing at the top ever since Virender Sehwag was axed from the team back in 2013.
His free-flowing style of batting
Rohit Sharma might not possess the breathtaking style of Virender Sehwag’s batsmanship, especially the way the latter stole the thunder with his multiple better than a-run-a-ball centuries. However, once set, the Mumbai batsman has a gifted ability to pull off glamorous shots effortlessly, dictating the order of play, thereby maintaining the pressure on the opposition bowlers.
There is never a dull moment when Sharma is batting as he beautifully blends caution with aggression, meaning the scoreboard will always be moving whenever he is around.
His gifted and sound technique
There is no doubt that Sharma is one of the most gifted, talented and technically-sound batsman India have produced in recent times.
Sharma might not be as solid as a rock as Cheteshwar Pujara or driven by an intense, meticulous work-ethic the way his captain Kohli is, but nonetheless the 32-year old Mumbai batsman is one of the gifted batsman India have ever had and his sound technique coupled with astute knowledge of the game is what makes him a valuable prospect at the top of the order in Tests for India.
Generally overshadowed by his lazy elegance, his pure and sound technique has always been an integral part of his game throughout his career so far and his ability to deposit balls into the stands without losing his shape is an evidence of his profound technique and temperament.
Only time will tell if indeed Rohit Sharma can exceed his expectations as an opener in Tests or not, but nonetheless, he is a most apt choice on paper for sure!