Australia vs India 2018-19: It's time for Rohit Sharma to step up in Test cricket
India's first Test against Australia is mere hours away, and the jitters must have hit the players right about now.
The buzz this time around in Australia is a bit different though; missing are the bold and insulting statements coming from former and current Australian players. Is this because Australia are attempting to be more civil, or is there some trepidation in their camp?
Whatever may be the case, India have to make sure they go all out from the first ball and apply maximum pressure on the hosts. Being laidback and waiting for the Aussies to make mistakes is not the right approach.
There is a lot of excitement about India's bowling unit. It is filled with menacing, skilled and wicket-taking bowlers that are capable of exploiting the pitch conditions in Australia and turn the tables on the hosts.
The batting is also expected to do well, as usual. But there are some signs of worry when you dig deep under the surface.
All of the top order batsmen, except Virat Kohli, have failed miserably in South Africa and England earlier this year. In fact, the Australians haven't even mentioned any of India's batsmen, except Kohli, as potential threats to their bowling unit. It's almost as though the difference between an Australian win or loss is just Kohli.
They may have a point there. If you look at the Indian batting line-up, notwithstanding some big names, none of the batsmen have exactly performed well enough consistently to scare the Aussie bowlers. Whether it's Murali Vijay, or KL Rahul, or Cheteshwar Pujara, or even Ajinkya Rahane, they have all had their moments, but none of them has stood up and performed when it has really counted.
On the eve of the first Test, India released the names of the probable 12. That list has invited debate on who between Rohit Sharma and Hanuman Vihari should be picked to bat at the #6 position.
But I believe India should pick both in their playing 11. Vihari looked good on his debut in England and has performed well enough in the practice match against Australia XI as well. As for Rohit, his stature in the Indian dressing room has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, in some circles, he is mentioned as a possible replacement to Kohli, or at least as his successor.
Rohit has undoubtedly played exceedingly well in limited overs cricket. However, his performance in Test cricket, particularly in overseas conditions, has been abysmal.
He has made no bones about his desire to be a permanent part of India's Test side. And if he gets his chance tomorrow, he needs to prove that he is leadership material and that he has the bona fides to score big when India need him in Tests.
Considering the expectations on India on this Australian tour are even higher than usual, Rohit's contribution could well be the difference between India winning the series and losing. Given the injury to Prithvi Shaw and the struggles of Rahul, the best move may be to install Rohit Sharma at the top of the order alongside Vijay.
The opening position is a spot Rohit is familiar with, and where he has excelled in limited overs cricket. There's no reason why he shouldn't be able to transition to the opener's slot in Tests too.
Big moments call for big names to deliver. Kohli has proven his mettle. It's time now that Rohit proves that he can deliver when India need him the most.