In a career that spans more than a decade, Rohit Sharma has featured in mere 25 Test matches. At the same time, he has played 193 ODIs and 86 T20Is, which raises an important question: Is Test cricket beyond him?
His batting temperament has often been blamed for his lack of success in red-ball cricket for India. Just to clarify, he has seven 150-plus scores in ODIs, three of those being double centuries, along with four T20I tons — the latest being the unbeaten 111 against the Windies in Lucknow on Tuesday. He also holds the record for the being the batsman with India’s top ODI score every year since 2013. Furthermore, the Mumbaikar has a first-class triple hundred.
So Rohit is well aware of the art of scoring big. Yet, he had failed to transform his white-ball prowess into the Test arena in the past.
To be fair to the Indian think-tank, earlier this year in South Africa, the team management did try him ahead of Ajinkya Rahane, who was the vice-captain of the team. But four outings in the series fetched him scores of 11, 10, 10 and 47.
He can't change his past records, but in future, if given an opportunity, Rohit can certainly look to revive his Test career. And having been picked in the Australia-bound Test squad, this is perhaps the ideal opportunity for him.
In 2018, with 967 ODIs runs, Rohit averages almost 70. In T20Is, it is 42.76 with 556 runs in 15 matches and in Australia he will play three more 20-over fixtures this year. These numbers speak for themselves. His conversation rate is exceptional in both ODIs and T20Is and on current form Rohit seems too good to be kept out of the Test side, especially when the team is looking to play an extra specialist batsman at No 6 on away tours.
Thanks to his recent white-ball heroics, Rohit will go to Australia feeling confident as a batsman. All he needs to do is to curb his adventurous instincts a bit in the longer format. In limited-overs' cricket, we often see Rohit playing the anchor role and trying to bat as many overs as possible, instead of being flamboyant right from the word go.
Even on Tuesday night, he did the something similar. In the initial few overs, the Windies pacers were bowling stump-to-stump channel on the tricky Lucknow surface. Rohit just presented a straight bat and played out that phase without taking much risk. Only after getting the measure of the pitch did he go after the bowling. Even then, he was calculative with his stroke-play. Also, he knew that he had to stay at the crease till the 20th over, so the 31-year old paced his innings superbly.
While approaching a Test innings, Rohit has to emulate the same game plan. Maybe he just needs to leave a few more deliveries than he does in ODIs. At No 6, he will often be required to bat with the tail, which demands flexibility from a batsman, and Rohit certainly has that. He is well capable of playing according to the demands of the situation, whether the waiting game or upping the ante. Also, thanks to his experience as an opener at the white-ball level, Rohit should not face much fuss as far as countering the second new ball is concerned.
In Australia, more than sideways movement, it is the pace and bounce of the pitch which always keeps the batsman on their toes. But Rohit, with his touch play, just thrives on bouncy pitches. He plays the horizontal bat shots quite aptly. Though in Australia, the grounds will be much bigger and on most occasions, he has not shied away from playing the expansive hook or pull shots.
Also, with his sharp reflexes, Rohit can be a valued addition in the slip cordon.
Overall, the Indian limited-overs' vice-captain has all the ingredients to be a successful Test batsman. Most importantly, he seems to be in a terrific space mentally at the moment. Therefore, there is little to suggest he should not be considered an automatic choice in the XI in Adelaide.