Opinion: Why Rohit Sharma deserves to be given a long rope in Test Cricket
With the South African tour to India due shortly, the usual talk of India’s Test squad, and the various possible permutations and combinations have started doing the rounds. One of the most talked-about and contentious debate has veered around India’s opening combination.
In the recently-concluded two-test series against West Indies, neither of the two openers – KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal – succeeded in cementing their position. Mayank failed in three innings and scored only one half-century. Though KL Rahul aggregated a few runs more than Mayank, his performance was admittedly more frustrating for the Indian fans and selectors alike.
KL Rahul has been touted as one of the most talented batsmen to emerge in a long time. He has also been seen as an all-format player. But despite getting a long rope, thanks mainly to the confidence that Kohli has had in him, he has done precious little to give the kind of assurance that the team needs from a dependable opening batsman. His performances during the West Indies tour were a continuation of a frustrating run for the Karnataka batsman who has frittered away starts.
For a player who has played as many as 36 matches, an average of less than 35 reflects very poorly on him, especially when he belongs to a batting line up that is studded with giants in the game. At almost 28, he is no longer that young and it is time India found a replacement.
A like-for-like replacement would be Rohit Sharma, who like Rahul has flattered to deceive in the long-form. He is a giant in the shorter format and is almost an equal to Kohli. His recent performances in the shorter format even outshine those of his captain extraordinaire.
But he has not done well enough in test matches. He has played 27 tests and his average of about forty is largely due to the scores he made in the subcontinent. But he is too good a batsman not to be given a second chance when players with far less pedigree have got many chances! But with Hanuma Vihari having cemented his position at number six, at least for the time being, Rohit can be accommodated only at the top of the order.
The good thing is that India’s next assignment is in India and his test record in India is quite good. So, it will be wise for the selectors to give him the opening position in familiar conditions, and a string of good scores here should help his confidence for sterner tests abroad.
He must be given a long rope though, and it must be communicated to him that he will not be dropped for at least eight to ten tests. If he fails to cement his position during that period, then at least one would not wonder in a distant future about a possible ‘what if’ scenario!
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