West Indies vs India 2019: Why not try Rohit at the top?
Team India, the number one-ranked ICC Test Team, will embark on their journey in the very first edition of ICC World Test Championship 2019-2021 today against West Indies away from home. Though they look quite solid in every department – batting, bowling, and fielding; there are a few key areas and players team management needs to review to strengthen their stranglehold in Tests moving forward.
One such area is the opening slot; a very important aspect but unfortunately, always a cause for concern especially traveling abroad. Team India is blessed to have quality Test batsmen like Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane and explosive bowlers such as Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, R. Ashwin, but the fragile opening slot is still an area of relative weakness.
After a long poor run of form, the MSK Prasad-led selection committee eventually axed Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan and experimented with a young crop of Indian players – Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw. In a very limited opportunity (2 Test matches each), both talents successfully displayed their skills much-needed to represent Team India at the top of the order.
However, Shaw’s injury and recent ‘dope’ controversy have kept him away from playing. As always it is, someone’s loss is another’s gain. It gives another much-needed opportunity to KL Rahul to prove his metal once again and cement his place in the side after horrifying 2018 (12 matches, 22 innings, 468 runs, average 22.29).
But why not experiment with Rohit Sharma at the opening slot?
In a purple patch
Rohit Sharma has been in sublime form recently in the white-ball cricket and has stamped his authority against every opponent across the globe. Looking into it, the selectors rightfully included him in the squad for the important series against Australia and he played relatively well while batting at No.6 (2 matches, 4 innings, 106 runs, 1 fifty).
In both cases, his inclusion came at the cost of a bowler. Virat Kohli generally likes to have five bowlers up his sleeve in a Test match scenario and had to sacrifice one to have Rohit play the game. Going by this, it seems Rohit will get an opportunity only when either India wants to strengthen their batting order or when the management feels comfortable withfour bowlers to win the game or lastly when Ajinkya Rahane is ruled out due to poor form.
Though Rahane is currently going through an extended bad patch, he is expected to deliver. He is too good a player to stay down for long.
But one also don’t want to lose out on the potential of Rohit Sharma especially when he appears to be at his peak at this time of his career and can make a match-winning impact on the game. You cannot have him in the squad only as a tourist. At this juncture, the opening slot seems to be the ideal opportunity.
Better at the top
Though he has never opened the inning in Test matches for India, he has more than sufficient experience (134 ODIs, 65 T20Is) to play the new ball in white-ball cricket. In the shorter format too, he started his career as a lower middle-order player way back in 2007 but he only came into his best starting 2011, when he was allowed to open the innings in ODIs and today, comes across as one of the finest opening batsmen in the world.
With his growing maturity and willingness to play long innings, the opening slot works out perfectly not only for the Mumbaikar but equally for the team too. Keeping him away from the game is nothing but a sheer waste of immense talent and experience. It will be a lose-lose scenario for both Rohit and most importantly, Team India.
The team management must ponder over it and give Rohit an opportunity to open the inning in Test matches. It may or may not work but it should not be ignored. It is certainly worth a shot.