India vs Australia: Why Rohit Sharma needs to hone Test match batting skills in First-class cricket before playing for India

If Rohit has to play Test cricket for India again, then he needs to prove that he values it by playing First-class cricket. Between getting dropped from the side in England and getting picked to play in Australia, Rohit didn't play any First-class cricket.

Rajesh Tiwary, Dec 12, 2018 13:52:23 IST

Editor's note: Rohit Sharma was selected over Hanuma Vihari in the Adelaide Test but the Mumbai batsman didn't make the most of the opportunity returning with scores of 37 and 1. After getting off to a good start in the first innings, he threw it away with a reckless shot. As the debate over Rohit's place in the Test side rages on, we take a look at whether he really deserves to be retained for the Perth Test or not. Here, we talk about why Rohit Sharma should not play at Perth in second Test. To read the opposing viewpoint, click here.

We have been through this drill several times, but it never gets easy or less frustrating. A player looks like a million dollar in the limited-over formats. He plays innings after innings of high quality and value for the team in coloured clothing. Experts start wondering out loud whether he is "too good a player to not play Test cricket".

Since this player is so good, he gets more opportunities than others, and deservingly so. Fans anticipate every coming will be better than the last. However, invariably the result is the same. The player tantalises you with what could be, then frustrates you with that one weakness that makes him unfit for the Test format. It could be a weakness against the bouncer, or weakness outside off stump, or something amiss in the mental side of the game.

Rohit Sharma struck his first Test century in four years in the second India-Sri Lanka Test at Nagpur. AP

Rohit Sharma scored 37 and 1 each in two innings at Adelaide Oval. AP

We have seen this same story repeated over the last decade for Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, both excellent limited-overs players who failed to make the shift to the longer format despite getting many opportunities. In its current edition, the protagonist of this story is Rohit Sharma.

The confused selection policy has only compounded Rohit's problem. Rohit was picked for the all-important tour to South Africa on the back of some solid performances in the home Test series against Sri Lanka where he was coming back after a long injury layoff. There were signs that Rohit has matured during his time away from the game and this may help him finally make a mark in Test cricket. However, the South African safari didn't go too well for Rohit. Kohli's trigger-happy selection policy doesn't give you too many chances to fail now. After failing to impress in the first couple of Tests, he was dropped for the third Test and the subsequent England tour.

Rohit's back-foot play brought him back into consideration for the Australian tour. His strength off the back-foot was on display in the very first session of the Test series when he pulled Pat Cummins off the front foot for a six. After lunch, Rohit deposited the same bowler over extra cover with the most nonchalant six you will ever see in Test cricket. However, Test cricket is not an exhibition of your best, but an in-depth examination of your worst.

Rohit had got a start; it was time to cash in and make a statement with a big hundred. The Australians though kept asking questions to Rohit's patience. He almost succumbed to Nathan Lyon as he mishit a slog sweep, but it just had enough on it to beat the fielder in the deep. Another batsman would have taken a deep breath, thanked his luck for the reprieve and put his head down to concentrate and negotiate the rest of the over. Not Rohit. In a reckless moment, Rohit charged Lyon the very next ball and got holed out playing an ugly hoick.

The dismissal was a perfect summary of Rohit's Test career. Of squandering the lucky breaks that came his way. Of brain fades, face-palms, and Twitter trolls.

The shot Rohit played to get out in the first inning also gave an insight into his cricket brain. It proved that even though he may be oozing with batting talent and can play all the shots in the book, he lacks the most critical attribute for Test match batting: Game-awareness. There may be a time and a place for decimating the opposition spinner, the first morning of a Test match with your team already four wickets down isn't one.

Perhaps Rohit was too eager to prove a point. Maybe the flow of adrenaline had clouded his judgement. Whatever be his reason, it only underlined Rohit's lack of appetite for hard-fought Test runs. Rohit may be the most gifted stroke-maker in the world, but if he is not willing to go through the grind of Test match style batting, then he should make way for a more willing candidate.

India already has someone like Hanuma Vihari in their ranks who impressed with his tenacity for the fight in his debut Test. Rohit's inclusion is keeping players as gifted as Karun Nair out of the squad. When a player gets a chance to wear that India cap, he owes it to those who are almost as deserving as him. He needs to prove that he is worthy of the privilege and values it.

If Rohit has to play Test cricket for India again, then he needs to prove that he values it by playing First-class cricket. Between getting dropped from the side in England and getting picked to play in Australia, Rohit didn't play any First-class cricket.

Occupation of the crease for long periods isn’t a skill you learn in the nets or by doing drills. You have to practice it in the middle. Rohit can convey his willingness to play Test cricket with the selectors and ask them to allow him time to play a few games in Ranji Trophy or County Cricket.

When Rohit was dropped from the Test squad in England, he tweeted: "The sun will rise again tomorrow". While the message was uplifting for his fans, Rohit needs to prove that when the sun rises, he needs to be willing to spend his time out in the sun and sweat it out.

Updated Date: Dec 12, 2018 13:54:07 IST

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