It is the surprising to see Rohit Sharma clad in the whites of Test cricket, walking on to the pitch for India and take his stance without even tapping the wicket to check for soft spots.And even in the first innings of the ongoing first Test against New Zealand, there were no hopes on Rohit Sharma.
Once a warrior had three swords, each heavier than the other. Despite being an elite swordsman of his country, he favoured the two lighter swords whenever he went to fight duels. He went undefeated for a long time. Once a foreigner, who claimed to be the best in the world, challenged the swordsman for a duel. It became clear that the foreigner could only be defeated if the swordsman used his heaviest sword, but the neglected sword lay there blunted due to the rust that had gathered by its non-usage. Subsequently, the foreigner defeated the swordsman who tried to use his second heaviest sword in the fight, to be called an imperfectionist for the rest of his life.
It is the surprising to see Rohit Sharma clad in the whites of Test cricket, walking on to the pitch for India and take his stance without even tapping the wicket to check for soft spots. It’s understandable that the modern batsmen do not follow the traditional prodding of the pitch with the bat any more, but it is the one of those little things that make watching a Test innings special. And even during the first innings of the ongoing first Test against New Zealand, there were no hopes on Rohit Sharma to carry out the ritual, when he walked in at No.6, nor did anyone expect him to play the anchor role during the batting collapse. And fulfilling the expectations, he went for the shots, which a batsman would hit when ordered by his captain who is thinking about declaring the innings. He got out once again after misjudging the line of the bowler, resulting in an easy catch for the fielder at long-on.
Despite so many chances granted to him under MS Dhoni, and now under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, the Mumbai batsman has consistently failed to pay back the faith placed on him. It is hard to imagine if the likes of Suresh Raina or Yuvraj Singh will ever be given so many chances in Tests for India. For Raina, a woeful tour of England, where it was a collective failure, and a king pair in the fourth Test in Australia was enough for him to be booted out of the Test squad and the less we talk about Yuvraj's Test career, the better.
The issue with Rohit's batting is not his talent, or his two double centuries in the ODIs, but his reluctance to adjust to the longer format. If you ask cricketing greats such as Rahul Dravid or Jacques Kallis about their success in playing Test cricket for such a long period of time, the need to watch the ball is sure to creep into the discussion. Rohit's timing of the ball and range of shots in T20s and ODIs is arguably one of the best among the current cricketers, and the power he generates with minimal footwork is amazing. But when it comes to observing the ball in Tests, he fails to apply himself.
When compared to the white ball used in the colourful format of cricket, the main properties of a red ball includes softening quickly. Due to this reason, the red ball swings as well as turns more viciously than the white ball which results in bowlers getting more edges off the bat. This is the reason we see a typical batsman leaving the new ball often, rather than going after it and getting an edge. While Rohit has mastered hitting the white ball all over the ground with surgical precision, it is a mystery that he still has not come to terms with playing the red ball even after facing it regularly on domestic and international wickets. If Rohit Sharma can manage to observe his teammates like Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, or even Wriddhiman Saha in the nets, it will be enough to make him understand the art of observing the ball closely.
It can be an excuse to call Sharma a lower-order batsman for his lower scores, given he does not come out at one down like Cheteshwar Pujara or come out to open the innings like he does for India in the ODIs. But it is crucial for a batsman coming in at No.6 or No.5 to stem the flow of the wickets and to stay rock solid during a batting collapse and forge partnerships with the tail. But Sharma's stats prove otherwise. In the past 30 innings he has played, Sharma has managed to build just 11 partnerships while most of the time, it was Sharma turning his back on his partner. He was also promoted to No.3 on 6 occasions to see if he can effectively steady an innings, but he was unable to build even one fruitful partnership in the middle.
In his past 30 Test innings, Sharma has been able to forge just 5 partnerships with batsmen coming after him
While some might argue that there is no possible alternative to replace the 29-year old at No. 6, but if the scorecard is viewed from the top, one can find a name in the team, who is capable of batting at any position - KL Rahul. If somebody can provide Sharma with enough competition and inspiration to claw his way out of difficulties, it is the Karnataka batsman. After being sidelined for almost a year, Rahul's transformation has been nothing short of incredible. If Shikhar Dhawan can instil faith in his skipper for a place in the team, it is better to send him as the opener alongside Murali Vijay and send the dependable Rahul at No.6 in the place of Sharma. If the selection panel wants a like-for-like replacement, then Mumbai's Shreyas Iyer and Karnataka's Robin Uthappa are already knocking on the door, on the back of their impressive Ranji seasons.
It also seems that the team management or captain Virat Kohli are not at all worried about their under-performing team member despite the Mumbai batsman recording an average of 46.3 across three Test series given most of them were played in sub-continental conditions. True, they have excluded him whenever they have wanted to go in with five bowlers in the team on seaming pitches, but turning a blind eye at Sharma's mediocre performances does not spell good days for the team. Under Sourav Ganguly's captaincy, in the spin department, even greats like Harbhajan Singh or Anil Kumble were not spared if they under performed as the management did not hesitate to bring in a players like Sarandeep Singh or Murali Karthik to replace them.
If Harbhajan or Kumble under performed under Ganguly, the management did not hesitate to replace them with the likes of Sarandeep Singh or Murali Karthik.
Batting in a position where the team is looking for its next VVS Laxman, Rohit Sharma has hardly reached a level where he can at least claim to be the next Rohit Sharma. While skipper Kohli urges his side to be ruthless enough to dominate world cricket, it is time that he needs to be critical about the performances of his faltering teammate. If Sharma needs extra motivation, it should start with his axing from the Test side or at least benching him for an entire series or two.