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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 19 DECEMBER, 2017

And To Think That Rohit Sharma Was Reckoned to Be a Test Specialist!

And To Think That Rohit Sharma Was Reckoned to Be a Test Specialist!


His lazy elegant style of batting, his text book technique, his graduating from the Bombay school of batting all marked him out as a batsman who could play a long innings, who could pile on the runs in the game’s traditional format and be a tower of strength to the middle order batting.

He certainly had the record to back him up. A triple hundred in a Ranji Trophy final, a first class career average hovering between 55 and 56 and hundreds in his first two Test matches marked him out as a Test specialist.

Somewhere along the line though one could also see that he was an ideal batsman for limited overs cricket too given his ability to adapt and adjust. Indeed Sharma made his international debut in an ODI in 2007 and a couple of months later was a member of the triumphant Indian team in the inaugural T-20 World Cup in South Africa. It wasn’t until six years later that he made his Test debut.

But towards the end of the first decade of the new millennium when it was obvious that the lustrous middle order batting line up of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman could not last much longer it was clear that the two leaders of the gen next of batsmen would be Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

But whereas Kohli after an indifferent start cemented his place in the side in all formats Sharma could not command a regular place in the Indian team. His vagaries of form left even his fans bewildered while the critics labeled him as ``Nohit Sharma’’. His first ODI hundred came up after 40 innings and this was the time he was slotted in the middle order. Aware of his prodigious talent cricket followers were puzzled as to why his record did not match up.

It was the team management’s decision to push Rohit Sharma to open the batting that proved to be a masterstroke much like it was in the case of another Mumbai and India favourite Tendulkar. Relishing the new challenge Rohit’s batting touched sublime levels and the runs and the big scores just flowed. Finally that prodigious talent was coming good and Indian cricket fans who believed in him could rejoice.

Actually in a special talent like Sharma one just has to see him batting for a short stint to be aware that one is watching a cricketer capable of great feats. Ian Chappell realized that when he saw him for the first time during the one day series in Australia in 2007-08. ``The best of the young Indian batsmen’’ was his verdict.

In 2011 he was making the following observation: ``It’s hard to fathom that three years later he still hasn’t played a Test and his talent is in danger of being underutilized.’’ The former Australian captain is not given to hyperbole – indeed he can be quite acerbic - and he was right on the money when he predicted ``a great future’’ for Rohit Sharma.

Two years later Sharma did make his Test debut. He marked it with a hundred and followed it up with another in the next game giving further credence to the theory that he was a Test specialist with all his outstanding batting exploits in the limited overs game. Thereafter however even as he went from strength to strength in ODIs and T-20 internationals his game fell off in the traditional format. Runs eluded him and he could no longer command a regular place in the Test team. But one can never write off Rohit completely. He has that hunger for success that is so characteristic of the Bombay school of batting and is mentally very strong. And just last month he finally came up with his third hundred in Test cricket.

Despite the occasional lapses in form there is no denying the fact that Rohit Sharma was always a case of potential far outweighing performance and the selectors deserve credit for persevering with him. And he has paid off this belief in spades.

There is no denying the fact that his limited overs record is better than his record in Test cricket. That just has to be the case for a man who alone has got three of the seven double hundreds scored in ODIs. But somehow one senses that his best in Tests is yet to come. He is too good a batsman to run up an impressive record in just one format.
 

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