It was just a few days ago that Virat Kohli spoke of Rohit Sharma as ``captaincy material.’’
That brought into focus one more aspect of Rohit’s cricketing acumen. The stand-in captain was handsome in his praise of Rohit.
``He has a tremendous cricketing brain. I often take his advice during matches and he has shown his capability while leading Mumbai Indians to the IPL title.’’
Indeed it were his leadership qualities during IPL-6 that caught the eye for till then Rohit was considered the best young batting talent in the country.
It was another thing that he had not fully lived up to potential exasperating his numerous fans while getting out when set for a big score playing a shot not in keeping with his impeccable technique.
The latest graduate from the famed Bombay school of batting which has produced among others Vijay Merchant, Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar Rohit has often been looked upon as the torch bearer of the tradition which revolves around the age old qualities of dedication, determination and concentration and the ability to play long innings and aim for big scores.
He certainly has the credentials. A first class average of almost 61, a triple hundred and a century in each innings of a Ranji Trophy final – a feat last achieved by Tendulkar and only four others before him.
Indeed a few years ago when Sourav Ganguly called it quits and it was obvious that Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman would not go on for too long Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma were earmarked for great things.
They were considered the two best young batting talents, the front runners who would fill the breach when the seniors rode off into the sunset. A few years down the line and it’s obvious that while the ambitious Kohli has surged ahead Rohit is some distance behind.
Kohli is not only a cert in both the Tests and limited overs squads but he is also an integral part of the middle order and the man tipped to succeed MS Dhoni as captain. Rohit has yet to make the Test team and has been in and out of the limited overs squad.
Now, some six years after making his international debut and playing 102 ODIs and 35 T-20 internationals there are indications that Rohit is finally going to make it big.
He is certainly enjoying his best phase in international cricket going by the consistent run.
What's even more striking is that the scores have been notched up as an opener whereas Rohit has always been thought of as a middle order batsman.
The consistent run has been in ODIs where he has struck up a good partnership with Shikhar Dhawan.
While Rohit has relished his new role and has made a success of it there is little doubt that in cricket’s traditional format he would be more at home in the middle order – a point driven home by his century in the ongoing four-day game between India A and South Africa A.
The selectors over the past few years deserve praise in persisting with Rohit for his is a case of potential are outweighing performance.
He is a class act, full of chiselled shots, wristy strokeplay and textbook batting.
Possessing an ideal temperament he is cool, calm and unhurried in a crisis situation as he initiates the rescue act with a methodical approach and a judicious blend of attack and defence.
And while he will continue to excel in limited overs cricket with the happy knack of being able to adapt, there is little doubt that Rohit’s great days lie in Test cricket. His style and approach is tailor made for the game’s traditional format as his first class record – nearly 5000 runs with 15 hundreds from 58 matches with a highest score of 309 not out – clearly illustrate.
The road to Test matches is generally through limited overs cricket but there are exceptions.
Cheteswar Pujara is the most notable one. He played 13 Tests highly successfully before making his ODI debut – in which format he has so far had a dismal record with 13 runs in two matches. It speaks highly of Rohit’s skills that despite having a game ideally suited for Test matches he has had more than his share of success in limited overs cricket.
When Rohit’s career took off during the victorious CB series campaign `Down Under’ in 2008 no less a critic than Ian Chappell predicted a ``huge future’’ for him.
The acerbic former Australian captain is not given to hyperbole and for him to come out with a comment like was quite unexpected. A little later Rohit was again the subject of high praise from another captain – Pakistan’s Rameez Raja.
``Rohit Sharma is the best young batting talent in the world,’’ he tweeted. A few years later Chappell was moved to comment that ``it’s hard to fathom that three years later Rohit still hasn't played a Test and his talent is in danger of being under-utilized,’’
It is only a matter of time before Tendulkar calls it a day and for my money Rohit is the natural successor.
It is only a matter of time before he takes the inevitable step to a permanent place in the Test side.
He is not one to rest on his laurels and has an insatiable appetite for runs.
But more than the runs it will continue to be his batting style and approach that will garner particular attention.
He may also be a good captain in the making as Kohli points out but at the moment Indian cricket needs Rohit the batsman more than Rohit the captain.