The test series against the Proteas will commence on 2 October and once again the talk of Rohit Sharma’s prominence and permanence will take centre stage. The thought that a player who has dominated the shorter formats of the game can be somewhat a flash in the pan when it comes to test cricket has baffled many experts.
Rohit in all likelihood will open for India and that is a position that just might settle the quandary around his place in the team. He has played at 5 and 6 and even 3, but has failed to make a lasting impact in the oldest format of cricket.
But the question is, will he be able to adjust in the team as an opener? Someone who has opened the innings in the shorter formats and dealt with the white ball so proficiently will have some demons to face when he sees the new red ball coming in.
But let’s face it, Rohit won’t be the first guy who will be opening the innings and struggling to survive at the top. Aaron Finch and Jason Roy are a few examples who have been made to open despite being middle order batsmen all their lives. Finch played as a middle batsman for Victoria for most of his career and found it extremely unnerving to tackle the new ball as an opener. Same is the case with Roy.
But on the other hand, there was also Sanath Jayasuriya and Herschelle Gibbs, who were promoted to open for their respective teams and went on to perform well as openers. In fact, Sanath flourished at that position for Sri Lanka.
There is also too much pressure on Rohit Sharma to perform in test cricket and therefore it becomes natural for the coach and the captain to assist him during this period. Ravi Shastri himself was someone who batted at number 9 and then 6, but found his calling as a batsman in the opening slot, thus, no one better than him to help Rohit out during this transition.
Another comparison that has been doing the rounds is the approach that Rohit will prosper as an opener because Virender Sehwag also did. He too was promoted up the order by then captain Sourav Ganguly where Sachin Tendulkar would come at number 3, Rahul Dravid at number 4, Ganguly himself at number 5, followed by V.V.S. Laxman. But the problem here is that Sehwag and Rohit are completely different players. Their temperament and style and the swiftness to settle into an innings is like comparing chalk and cheese.
It would be best not to compare the two and encourage Rohit to discover his own rhythm and freedom to tackle the new red ball, which can be more troublesome than the white ball. But since Rohit will be playing at home, it is best to consider that he will prevail despite the pressure being mounted on him.
Vineet Malhotra is a Consulting Editor and Prime Time Anchor with News X.