If the national selectors have not already run out of patience with Rohit Sharma, it’s time they did. The Mumbai batsman has been given such a long rope that, metaphorically speaking, he could soon make a clothesline of it. Left hanging out there would be the hopes of his fans who believe that he’d presently give expression to his talent.
Yes, statistics might not always tell a tale. But in Rohit Sharma’s case they reveal a very disturbing trend: that of misplaced hopes.
A cursory glance at his Test performance is sufficient to convince all but the most ardent Rohit fan that the selectors have been backing the wrong horse. In his last 16 Tests he has aggregated a paltry 658 runs at an average of 23.5. If his overall Test figures are more encouraging, (946 runs from 18 Tests at an average of 32.62) it still does not warrant a place in the Indian team.
The thing going against Rohit Sharma is not just the lack of runs but his present age, with which selectors would be less inclined to be charitable after putting up with repeated failures thus far. He is a few months shy of 30 and ought to have matured enough as a batsman to be at the peak of his game. Typically, the three to four years around the 30-age mark is when an international batsman would have accumulated plenty of experience, centuries, runs and also be at peak fitness.
In short, at around 30 years of age, a top batsman would be a finished product with the country looking forward to his performances leading to victories. Additionally he would be expected to shoulder responsibility to nurture and mentor young emerging talents.
It is precisely in these areas that Rohit Sharma has fallen steeply. He has neither the runs nor the stature to mentor ‘works in progress’ like young KL Rahul or the slightly more experienced Ajinkya Rahane in Test cricket. Of course IPL T20 is a different ball game altogether. But it is the 13 Tests at home that are the issue. Here, Rohit simply does not make the cut on merit or when taking the long-term development of the team into consideration.
It is common knowledge that Indian batsmen would be more at home on Indian pitches and conditions and hence the 13 Tests would present the right opportunity to tweak the batting line-up and get it going for the more challenging series in England, Australia and South Africa.
KL Rahul, who is yet to play a Test in India, is already the most valuable batsman after skipper Virat Kohli. Rahane too seems to be a certainty in the playing eleven while Murali Vijay has done enough to be in the mix. The number three batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, like Rohit Sharma, is another player who has thus far not done justice to his ability. But his record (35 Tests, 2482 runs at an average of 46.83, seven centuries) is far superior and he is a year younger as well.
If anything, the selectors need to groom and encourage Manish Pandey ahead of any decision to recall Rohit Sharma. Pandey, currently leading India A in Australia, has had an impressive tour with stirring knocks against both South Africa and Australia A. He has been knocking on the doors of Test cricket for quite some time now and certainly deserves a look-in during the home series.
Of course Rohit Sharma could always be recalled, especially if one of the main batsmen runs out of form or is injured. But for that he needs to take to domestic cricket in earnest and pile on the runs and stay on the ball.
Usually selectors look for tall scores in domestic cricket from young emerging batsmen, rather than discarded players. But the hectic season of 13 home Tests followed by sterner Tests overseas must give Rohit some hope.
Yet that hope should be backed by a realistic look at his Test career. In the final analysis, talent counts for nothing unless backed by performance and that is one area that Rohit Sharma has fallen short, repeatedly.