West Indies v India 2019: Has Rohit Sharma’s moment of glory arrived?
More than a decade ago, a young Mumbai batsman was making big strides in domestic cricket and was touted by many as the next big thing to watch out for in Indian cricket.
Rohit Sharma was considered, by many, to be Mumbai’s next big addition to Indian cricket in a series of illustrious greats. The T20 World Cup at South Africa in 2007 and the tri-series triumph in Australia provided the world with a glimpse of the special talent Rohit Sharma possessed.
An injury that delayed the Test debut in 2010
Rohit Sharma was having a good year in 2010, when he managed to score his maiden ODI hundred and looked all set to make a Test debut for the Indian side. However, destiny had other plans for the Mumbai batsman.
Initially picked as a reserve batsman, Rohit earned his lucky break when VVS Laxman failed to recover from an injury ahead of the first Test during South Africa's tour of India during the 2010 home season. He was all set to make his debut when, just before the start of the match, Rohit injured himself in warm-up while playing football and thus continued a longer wait for that elusive Test debut.
The incident was aptly summed up by Rohit himself when he stated, “It was the biggest disappointment of my life as I had to wait three years to make my debut,” calling the missed opportunity as a big disappointment in his cricketing career.
A dream debut
Post the 2010 incident, the Indian vice-captain in the LOI format had to wait for another 3 years when he ultimately got a chance to be a part of the Indian Test line-up. Rohit was selected in the famous home Test series against West Indies, which incidentally turned out to be another Mumbai legend’s farewell series.
The debutant scored a mammoth 177 in his first outing in India whites at the Eden Gardens and followed it up with another fine century in the next game at Mumbai, culminating in a dream debut series for the right-hander.
Contrasting journey in Tests and the LOI formats
The Test match debut ought to have given the Indian team management ample confidence in finding a suitable number 6 for the side, a position that saw maximum uncertainty ever since Ganguly and Laxman’s departure.
However, Rohit Sharma failed to capitalize on the opportunity, missing out on scoring big during India’s foreign tours. Rohit’s inconsistency with the bat along with the manner of his dismissals outraged the experts and fans alike, forcing the selectors to drop him from the side.
His potential with the bat was evident for the world, with the kind of performances he displayed in the limited-overs format as an opener. In ODI cricket, Rohit has scored 8686 runs at an average of 48.5 with 27 centuries under his kitty.
Rohit’s dominance in one-day cricket becomes even more astonishing with the fact that out of his 27 centuries, 17 of those have come in the last three years.
The Indian vice-captain also holds the world record for three double centuries with the highest score of 264 against Sri Lanka. The World Cup 2019 proved to be the summation for all of Sharma’s glory, wherein he ended up as the highest run-getter in the event.
A chance at redemption - Who does he replace?
Rohit’s dream run in the shorter formats has led to an immense rise in stature of the Mumbai batsman. In Test cricket though, Sharma has had an average outing as per his standards, last scoring a century against Sri Lanka during the islanders’ tour to India during the 2017-2018 season.
During India’s tour of Australia in 2018, Sharma had an ordinary outing with a solitary half-century to his name in four innings. However, with an opportunity in the West Indies tour and the form that Sharma has displayed in recent past, including a half-century in the warm-up game, he would look to cement his place in the Indian side in the longest format of the game.
Sharma would surely look to get the monkey off his back once and for all and the two Test matches in the Caribbean are an ideal opportunity for the Mumbai batsman.
That, though, brings us to an important question that needs to be addressed. With the middle order looking all set and compact in the presence of Pujara, Kohli, and Rahane, Sharma has either a number 6 spot, which is most likely, or an opening slot available in the absence of Prithvi Shaw.
Since the latter looks an unlikely option as India already have two specialist openers through KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, Kohli would not want to tinker with that position and rather have Rohit bat in the lower middle order.
This could consequently lead to another selection dilemma for the Indian management, wherein they will have to decide whether to play the in-form Sharma or bring in the solidity of Hanuma Vihari, who has been highly impressive in a fairly young Test career.