There isn’t a bigger name in Indian cricket apart from Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma - the eyeball that they get is unparalleled to the other cricketers in the world. While Kohli has shown his brilliance across formats, Rohit has left a lot to be desired in the longest format but can he?
Well, Rohit Sharma has endured it all in the last two years, from becoming the highest run-scorer in the World Cup for India in a single edition to being substituted by Prithvi Shaw in the Test series in New Zealand. But after a troublesome period with injuries that ruled him out of the entire New Zealand Test series and the first two Tests of the Australian series, the right-hander is back and so are the possibilities of him featuring straight in the lineup.
Unlike his last appearance, which came against Bangladesh at home - here Rohit Sharma walks in as a possible headache for the Indian team, seemingly for their combinations. While Hanuma Vihari has been their go-to resurrector in the middle-order, he hasn’t lived up to his dire bill and neither has Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order.
After walking in as a rookie in 2018, the Karnataka opener has seen a multi-fold increase in his value in the dressing room, becoming the established opener before the 2020 series. But like the Australian counterpart Joe Burns, Agarwal has had a dreaded start to the season, where he seemingly has a ‘technical’ flaw that has flattered to deceive. So that’s where a fit, a quarantined Rohit walks into the picture!
Scenario 1 - Rohit Sharma replaces Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order
Now that’s the most likely scenario that is about to prevail at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Karnataka opener, who looked like the established opener of this Indian set-up for the long year of Test cricket has a paltry return of 0,5,17,9 in four innings, which has irked the Indian fans. While not just the fans, it has also brewed a spree of doubts over his batting abilities and his remodelled batting stance.
Despite the two low scores in the last two Tests, Mayank holds an incredible fort and respect as an Indian opener in these conditions, scoring 226 runs, averaging 32.28 and having faced 476 deliveries Down Under. Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma, who is waiting in the wings hasn’t featured much in these conditions at least against the red-ball.
All his appearances (10 innings) have come at a lowly No.6, where he has scored 279 runs and largely counter-attacked for the visitors. In case Rohit walks in, he’d have played just six innings as an opener but all in home conditions, where he averages 92.66. While it might hold the fort for the series against England, him at the top of the batting order in Sydney would be quite a big punt for India to take but did you forget the time when they opened with Agarwal and Vihari, ah time has indeed changed!
Scenario 2 - India axe ‘overseas’ warrior Hanuma Vihari; Rohit walks in at No.5
This is another situation that has come up in the last few weeks, especially with all the talks of Rohit Sharma walking back into the Indian Test unit, a setup where he hasn’t featured enough to be an automatic starter. Vihari has been definitely frustrating for the Indians, with them looking at his record on a very high pedestal. If anything this series, the right-hander has looked a pale version of himself, after blessing the television screen with his hundred, which resembled Cheteshwar Pujara in more ways than one. In three innings, a return of 45 runs, at an average of 15 isn’t quite a merry.
While his attitude has been a blessing in disguise for the national team, his freewheeling position has in the past series helped India overcome several situations. But this time, it has put them in a goddamn fix especially with the Mumbai wrist magic Down Under. Now it kills multiple birds with one stone; India haven’t used Vihari as a bowling option really with five bowling options that they possess now and with Pujara and Rahane shouldering the batting responsibility, having the duo of Rohit and Pant could really up the ante for the visitors.
At the Adelaide Oval, India’s inability to get out of a defensive hole put them in a real spot of bother. While they did do well in Melbourne, especially the partnership between Rahane and Jadeja, having Rohit in the middle-order could really bolster their aggressiveness and scoring rate. That combined with Rohit’s record Down Under as a middle-order batsman means that Vihari might be in real danger of missing out, in Sydney.
Possibility: Very High
Scenario 3 - India push Shubman Gill into the middle-order to make way for Rohit-Mayank
India are really notorious for changing the top-order especially after something that has worked. Make no mistake, it was the batting change at the top of the order in the 2018 series, which ultimately turned out to be a match-winning one for them where the openers dragged the Australian bowlers to the mud, where Pujara liked to slug it out. But why change a winning combination is quite a question but this situation isn’t a normal one, it concerns a certain world-class Rohit Sharma, which makes it spicy.
So what does this mean? Drop Gill into the middle-order, which essentially means that Vihari would be out of the picture and in walks Rohit and Mayank - two of India’s best averaging openers at home. Now don’t get me wrong, at home, they could make a small pebble look like a diamond but in Australia, there is all possibility of them turning into mud from a stone. But with the Indian team looking at Gill as a middle-order option, this provides them with the right situation where they could test out the right-hander in the middle but does it guarantee that?
Not yet I would say, especially when the series is hanging at 1-1, there are no real reasons for India to either a) risk the possibility of losing the series especially after having a stronghold over the hosts or b) spoil a combination that would only make it worse for the youngster, who had a good outing at the top of the order. So for all those reasons, this is the least likely thing to happen but it should have been the best possible-case scenario in the first place.
Possibility: Highly unlikely