A Mumbai player told Firstpost recently that when it comes to talent, it is no contest: Rohit Sharma is streets ahead of everyone else. Even Cheteshwar Pujara falls by the wayside. MS Dhoni called Rohit the most God-gifted talent around. Unfortunately, talent only takes you so far.
An 11-ball duck against Rest of India, when Mumbai had already lost two wickets in the morning session, is simply the latest in a worrying line of Rohit’s failures.
By contrast, Ajinkya Rahane, also under pressure to preserve his place in India’s squad, made a cultured 83 before being sawn off by an incorrect umpiring decision.
There is little to separate the pair when it comes to their first-class records. Rohit made his first-class debut in 2006, Rahane in 2007. Rohit has played 55 matches, Rahane 59. Rohit averages 61.40, Rahane averages 62.23. Rohit has 15 centuries, Rahane has 19.
Yet Rohit has played 88 ODIs and 23 T20s matches for India while Rahane has played 16 ODIs and 7 T20s.
There is no doubt about the elegance with which Rohit plays the game. When he is on, he has oodles of time to play the ball, a quality that all great batsmen share. In the nets, his bat meeting ball has a different ring to it. If an eye test was all that was needed, Rohit passes with flying colours.
Talent, however, must translate into performance. Take Graeme Hick, once hailed as the world’s best batsman when he was mowing down county attacks, but unable to translate that into international success. Perhaps better management would have wrung more out of Hick’s undoubted gifts, but the point is talent is no guarantee of success.
So it is turning out to be with Rohit. His 83 in the fourth ODI against England looks like the exception, surrounded as it is by a string of scores no higher than 5. His average away from home is 26.30 from 51 games, which is not an insignificant sample size.
Against Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha, Rohit mostly defended for 10 balls. Then, with a man in a catching position at midwicket, he decided to play the slog-sweep to Harbhajan when neither the match situation, nor his own, called for such a stroke. Rohit’s shake of the head as he walked off told its own story.
Rahane, meanwhile, was in stride from his second over, when he clipped Sreesanth for four past square leg. Knowing he needed to make a score in this game to remain in the national conversation, he appeared set for a hundred when the umpire gave him out leg-before despite a clear inside edge onto pad. But despite that misfortunate, Rahane showed a determination and an intent that seems to be missing from Rohit.
Yes, Rahane has not established himself in the India XI either but he has not had the same sequence of opportunities. He has also been made to open the innings, which is not his natural position. If Rohit deserves a long rope based on his talent and his domestic performances, then the same yardstick should be applied to Rahane. It is time for the two to switch places.