Is the England tour Rohit Sharma’s ultimate challenge?
The 2018 England tour was Virat's redemption, will 2021 be Rohit's?
Updated - Aug 3, 2021 11:06 am
Rohit Sharma has learned the art of capturing the second chance life throws at him. When the opportunity to become a white-ball opener came his way, he didn’t fail to grab it. His second chance allowed the coming of age of an opener to become the opener.
Rohit was in and out of the test team and was recalled whenever India played at home, he was left out and an all-rounder was roped in (rightly so). Overseas, sometimes he was at fault, sometimes he was not really ‘that’ tested.
He was dropped for the first time in Tests when India toured England in 2018 and Rohit had reacted immediately on Twitter with, “Sun will rise again tomorrow”.
What helped the right-hander immensely was his remarkable ODI performance, second best to Virat, which constantly tempted the management of his inclusion in Tests. Meanwhile, in the background, huge support for Mayank and Vihari grew and they were closing in on Rohit’s chances in the Tests.
Luckily, that’s when the India tour of Australia happened in the year 2018. His ability to play short balls as comfortably as anyone was weighed higher than any of his or the competitors’ stats.
I still remember every time Rohit left the ball in the first match when India had already lost early wickets, Pujara kept giving thumbs up—the exact feeling I had as a fan—that’s it, you can do this.
He scored a remarkable 37 (in that context) and perished trying for a lofted shot. A half-century later in the series and nothing huge as such to cement his place in the team, thus, came back to where he had started.
Making Rohit open—as a suggestion was hardly made until that point where the opener spots cleared up mid-series and that’s when the actual commotion for Rohit be promoted as an opener sprang up all over social media. It started there but bore fruit in the India versus South Africa home series. Rohit scored a duck in the practice match and thereby, helped the haters have a feast who fed fans with troll memes. The hardest place to bat in Tests was at the top and Rohit was about to take it head-on. And he was unbelievable.
He bisected the opportunity as simply as he could and saw it just like any other ODI game. Hit the bad balls, defend the good ones. He made back-to-back centuries in that game but it was the 200 he scored that made me proud. India lost early wickets against Rabada and Nortje, and it was Rohit along with Rahane who steadied the ship. Rohit capitalized from that moment on and made a fabulous double.
Rohit’s ultimate challenge?
Rohit can’t play Tests, Rohit can’t open. Now, it surely has to be—Rohit can’t open overseas. Haters kept finding excuses to hate him. Rohit on the other hand kept knocking them out of the park. He would be a sitting duck against the likes of Cummins, Starc, and Hazlewood, they said.
No practice match, hard quarantine, opening for the first time in Australia and no one would have believed if they were told Rohit would bat as comfortably as anyone would.
He looked in sublime touch, his straight drives, and everything. It was in India against England that he stood out. If not for Rohit’s contribution with the bat, India could have really struggled against England. Rohit came up with a solid plan for the second Test in Chennai. When Rohit drove Broad through the covers, I gasped. Even before the spinners could arrive, Rohit had already made 40-odd runs. Solid plan. The spinners came and Rohit, you beauty, how well did you sweep! And he was rewarded with 161.
Now, the WTC final. England. And there it is, the overseas drama. Again.
The last time he faced the Dukes ball was in 2014 and yet, again, looked very comfortable. It’s as if with each outing, his technique is improving, his feet moving an inch closer, his solid defense getting better. His combined 64 runs were the highest (along with Rahane) any Indian batter made.
Never had he batted overseas the entire five-match series and this might be his first instance. 10 innings, the perfect opportunity to redeem himself as an overseas opener, lies ahead. It’s Rohit’s ultimate challenge in my book, but I’m sure he is pretty much looking at it like any other game.
The 2018 England tour was Virat’s redemption, will 2021 be Rohit’s? Fingers crossed.
– By Pradeep Kumar