The ever-promising Rohit Sharma battled the early nerves and came up with a scintillating 93 ball, 68 not out to take India to 377/5 in their second innings of their first Test against New Zealand at Kanpur. The visitors now face an almost impossible task of chasing a mammoth 434 runs as target.
Rohit came into bat after the loss of Cheteshwar Pujara with India sitting pretty at 228/4. But the hosts needed quick runs and who else can get you that than the right-handed Mumbaikar.
He started off slowly needing seven deliveries to get off the mark. But once he did it, he had no trouble at all in pushing up the scoring rate. His first two boundaries were his trademarks where he first drove Ish Sodhi and then flicked away a Neil Wagner delivery.
Rohit now has 1000 plus runs in all formats
The 29-year-old hit six more boundaries en route and ran hard between the wickets making his intentions clear that he was out there to prove something. The runs also helped him get past the 1000-run mark in Test cricket. He now has 1000 or more runs across all three formats. For a player like Rohit though, the milestone comes a little late in his career.
In the last inning also, Rohit had got a start again but he threw it away after getting to 35. He faced a lot of criticism after the end of the day with even former players indulging it.
That is when Rohit’s childhood coach Dinesh Lad jumped to his rescue saying too many games in different formats are not helping his Test batting."He has had to play too many T20s and ODIs," Dinesh told Mid-Day. "In limited overs cricket, if you play your shots early, the ball will reach the boundary line because the white ball travels faster than the red one. He had also blamed the media for putting unnecessary pressure on Rohit.
Rohit’s childhood coach Dinesh Lad had jumped to his defence a few days back
"Rohit is playing his shots too early. Today too, he was early on the shot and his bat shook, that's why he was caught at long-on. He is also falling prey to media pressure and he cannot handle this. It is disturbing him mentally. He is not going out there with a free mind," he said.Though he has answered the critics with this innings for a little while and given hopes to his fans, will this finally prove to be a turning point in his Test career?
The Mumbai Indians captain has had a roller coaster ride in the longest form of the game. He started off with a bang claiming two back to back centuries against the West Indies in 2013, six years after he made his One-Day International debut.
While he has been a brilliant limited-overs batsman, Rohit never reached such heights in Test cricket after the West Indies series. In the four games that he played there, he notched 338 runs with an astonishing average of 112.66. In Tests after that and prior to this game Rohit has averaged just 23.81.
Statistics may not be always the best measure to gauge talent but then again it’s a reflection of one’s performance. Rohit’s performances in the Tests were in the dip. However, there was no lack of encouragement from the management side.
In his last 5 innings, he would get to brisk starts and then throw it away or get out early, in single digits. Before the Test, his last five scores were 41,9,0,1,23. For a player, who has two double tons in One-Dayers the scores don’t stand fit.
The 29-year-old has had a wonderful limited overs career
Just for the record, Rohit has 5008 runs from 148 ODIs at an average of 42.08. His highest One-Day score is 264, the one he smashed against Sri Lanka in 2014 at the historic Eden Gardens. In T20s too he has been quite sensational with 1364 runs from 62 games.
While many have no doubt over his abilities in the shorter versions, they have serious questions over his batting in Tests. Even India coach Anil Kumble had said a few days back that given a choice he would select Cheteshwar Pujara over him.
The time now has come for Rohit Sharma to replicate his limited over form in Test cricket and the quick 68 might help him with the much-needed confidence. He will, however, need such scores on the trot to help him get the consistency in the format. And a consistent Rohit Sharma is a treat to watch.
The batter who started off as a teenage cricketer for Mumbai will get more chances through the series unless India opts for a five-bowler attack, and Rohit has to grab every one of them.The newly constructed selection panel will be closely reviewing Rohit’s performances and any more hiccups can lead to him being dropped.
Over the next few Test matches, one will get to see if this innings will serve as a stepping stone for more success or will he be fighting for a place in the playing XI again.