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Rohit Sharma's place in the Test side ticking like a time bomb

Is Rohit Sharma
Is Rohit Sharma's place in the Test side in danger?
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Modified 12 Feb 2021
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Back in 2019, Rohit Sharma was recalled to the Test fold as India hoped to stumble upon a long-term opening combination. Alongside Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, who had strengthened a burgeoning white-ball reputation, was looked upon as finally being able to fulfil his potential in the Test arena.

To that end, the opener began like a house on fire, ripping the South African attack to shreds in a series that included a couple of centuries and a double ton – all in the space of three matches.

Thus, at that juncture, there was palpable excitement that Rohit Sharma, after enduring countless false dawns had finally started unlocking his potential in the longest version. More specifically, it hinted that Rohit Sharma, despite the innate ability to enthrall and exasperate, had somehow found a formula to produce the former on a more frequent basis.

Unsurprisingly, plenty expected the opener to carve a niche for himself in the away assignment against New Zealand, not just because he had seemingly come of age, but also because his overseas record required a lot of correction. However, during the limited-overs leg of the New Zealand tour, Rohit Sharma injured himself, meaning that his tryst with Test destiny had to be put on the back-burner, until 2021.

Since then, though, Rohit Sharma has resorted to his old habits, which basically translates to him batting like a millionaire in an environment where being penny wise is the norm. To put things into context, against Australia, Rohit Sharma played two games, tallying 129 runs across four innings.

Rohit Sharma (R) wasn
Rohit Sharma (R) wasn't able to play a substantial knock Down Under

Rohit Sharma has struggled for runs lately

While the numbers aren’t as treacherous as one might be led to believe, they certainly aren’t befitting of an opener expected to provide solid starts. In blunter terms, it isn’t exactly what the Indian team has been crying out for, considering the pretty 30s and 40s have not accorded the side the sheer weight of runs at the top of the order.

Unfortunately for the Mumbai Indians skipper, that trend continued in the 1st Test against Chennai, with the opening batsman being dismissed for 6 and 12. Due to another collectively listless batting performance, India lost the aforementioned fixture, thereby casting further scrutiny over their batsmen.

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Though Rohit Sharma, at least for now, might be safe from that particular hammer, it might perhaps be time to introspect whether the right-hander remains India’s best opening alternative moving forward.

One of Rohit Sharma’s criticisms over the years, has been his inconsistency and his inability to contribute, especially when he is not at the top of his game. Consequently, that has led to numerous low scores, wherein the opener has just not gotten going, instead transferring pressure onto his teammates.

To put things into context, of the 59 innings (7 not-outs included) Rohit Sharma has played in Test cricket, he has gotten out for a score below 25 on 29 occasions, which is just a shade under 50%. Additionally, he has gotten dismissed in the 26-50 run range 15 times – again highlighting that he isn’t the most consistent and dependable batsman going around.

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Rohit Sharma gets out for low scores way too often
Rohit Sharma gets out for low scores way too often

By contrast, when he has breached the 50-run barrier, Rohit Sharma looks a different batsman altogether. He has crossed that particular obstacle 15 times in total and has converted those into hundreds on 6 occasions, with three 150-plus scores too.

Thus, the stats indicate that Rohit Sharma belongs to the breed of batsmen who can be a menace if established at the crease. Yet, if that doesn’t transpire, he can look a tad clueless, which owing to his languid style, can also be mistaken for a lack of effort.

Though that is a boat that has been sailed upon countless times previously, one can’t help but indulge in that conversation, especially when Rohit Sharma keeps producing a string of low scores.

Against Australia, there were a couple of loose strokes that led to his downfall, most notably the one at Sydney where he pulled a Pat Cummins delivery straight to Mitchell Starc on the long leg fence.

Apart from the aforementioned dismissal, he also indulged in his characteristic wafts outside off stump – tendencies that led to him perishing at the Gabba and more recently, against Jofra Archer at Chennai.

In fact, for an opening batsman, Rohit Sharma gets caught behind, bowled and LBW an awful lot. The right-hander has been dismissed 52 times in Test cricket, with him being caught behind 10 times, bowled on 10 occasions, and being given LBW on 8 other instances.

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Rohit Sharma looks pretty vulnerable against the moving ball
Rohit Sharma looks pretty vulnerable against the moving ball

Thus, there might even be a case to suggest that Rohit Sharma could be better suited to the middle order. Yet, that is a debate that could rage well into the night and might even be better served for discussion on another day.

Also Read: Is Ajinkya Rahane slowly becoming a liability in home Tests?

As of now, Rohit Sharma has been designated as India’s first-choice opener, meaning that he simply has to score more runs at the top of the order and be a lot more judicious with his footwork and shot selection. Though there might always be a temptation to offer him a longer rope, considering his propensity to make big hundreds, that could also lull India into a false sense of security.

Rishabh Pant has sparked into life recently
Rishabh Pant has sparked into life recently
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Moreover, with the Indian team seeming hell-bent on playing five batsmen, plus Rishabh Pant, it is imperative that Rohit Sharma keeps churning out runs at the top of the order. If that were to happen, it would enable the likes of Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill to prosper while playing their brand of fearless cricket.

Also Read: Shubman Gill enters vital phase of his Test journey

Though Rohit Sharma arguably falls into a similar category of batsmen showcasing immense bravado, it is vital that he starts taking more responsibility and becomes the bankable batsman that India can rely on.

So far though, over the past couple of months, Rohit Sharma has portrayed that he might still have a few chinks in his Test armour – flaws that could undermine the mercurial talent he boasts.

And, if he keeps emphasizing the adage of old habits dying hard, he might even find himself scurrying for a regular place in the Indian set-up. In clearer terms, if he fails to do so, India might again start wondering about another case of unfulfilled potential, at least as far as Rohit Sharma’s fortunes in the longest format are concerned.

Time could be running out for Rohit Sharma
Time could be running out for Rohit Sharma
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For now, he is perhaps a lot safer than some of those around him, although that doesn’t give him the liberty of taking his spot for granted. The blueprint, thus, for Rohit Sharma seems pretty clear – he needs to score runs and needs to do so rather swiftly.

Consequently, Rohit Sharma’s place in the Indian test side seems to be ticking like a time bomb – which seems a tad poetic, owing to his propensity to implode and explode at the same time.

After all, if Rohit Sharma doesn’t keep one on the edge of one’s seat, one simply isn’t being treated to the trials and tribulations of being an Indian cricket fan.

Also Read: Indian cricket team's old habits highlight a worrying trend

Published 12 Feb 2021, 19:57 IST
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