There's something about the 'Second Coming of Rohit Sharma'

Last Updated: Thu, Jul 20, 2017 13:58 hrs
Rohit Sharma has got yet another chance to prove his mettle in Test matches

Very few people get second chances in life and some get more than one comeback in international cricket. But nobody in recent times has probably been given more opportunities in Team India than the immensely talented ODI sensation Rohit Sharma, who has just secured his place in the Test squad for the upcoming Sri Lanka tour later this month.

In just his first two Test innings against the lowly-ranked West Indies in 2013, Rohit scored a good 288 runs. Since he had a not out, at that stage he averaged 288 in Tests! His debut innings of 177 was among the top 10 Test debut global innings of all time and second in India only next to Shikhar Dhawan's 187.

After that till August 2016, Rohit only got a chance to play most of his Tests abroad and was a minor disaster. From the South African tour of 2013 to the West Indies tour of 2016, he played a good 29 innings in 16 Tests.

During that phase Rohit averaged just 23.5 and failed to score a single century. Many have been retired after such a performance, but not Rohit, who continues to be an enigma. He is the best of players and he is the worst of players.

When Rohit is on song, commentators wonder if there is any better player than him in the world and how he ever gets dropped from the team. When he goes through a bad patch, he becomes the butt of Twitter jokes and memes celebrating his failures break the Internet.

Many wonder if Rohit has the temperament to play in Tests at all. In ODIs, his lusty blows have already got him a record two double centuries. But in Tests he keeps throwing his wicket away as if he's suddenly in the slog overs of a tournament semi-final.

Either he'll get out early to a shaky shot or if he's on song, he'll give it all away in a rush of blood.

Not at all ideal for the five-day format which requires tonnes of patience!

Even the brash and impulsive captain Virat Kohli keeps himself under check in Tests and that's why he already has four double centuries and is inching towards a career average of 50 despite having an abysmal start to his five-day career.

Why has the selection committee put their faith in Rohit yet again for the upcoming Lanka tour which will have three Tests from July 26 to August 16? There could be many reasons for this.

For one, after a torrid overseas phase, Rohit finally struck form in the recent home New Zealand tour. He scored 238 runs in that series. He didn't score a single century, but thanks to his not outs, he averaged a high 79.

Rohit also has the experience of the Sri Lanka tour of 2015. Though he averaged just a shade around 34, he still had a couple of half-centuries including one in the final innings of the tour that guided us to a commanding target that helped us win the series.

Then there’s something about the 'Second Coming of Rohit Sharma'.

From 2007-12, Rohit played a good 81 ODIs and had a career batting average of barely 30 and just two centuries (one against Sri Lanka and one against Zimbabwe). He had a career strike rate of 78.

The then captain MS Dhoni still persisted with him for those 5 odd years despite his many failures and received tonnes of flak for it.

Then Rohit was made opener and his whole world turned upside down. From 2013 to the present day, he has made close to 3500 runs at an average of close to 55 and a strike rate close to 89. He also has 9 centuries including two that are doubles. That includes the all-time highest ODI score—an astonishing 264.

One must feel that the selectors are hoping for a similar Second Coming in Tests. An unsettled team has also helped his cause.

Dhawan has had an erratic Test career. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have been in and out. KL Rahul has been facing injury woes.

Stuart Binny was tried in the Test team with little luck. Funnily even Karun Nair was dropped immediately after his triple century. A combination of all these factors means that lucky Rohit still finds himself in the Test tour to Sri Lanka.

So will Rohit finally deliver the goods? That's anyone's guess.

Does he have the talent? Yes, definitely!

Does he have the temperament and patience to secure a permanent career in the five-day format? The jury's still out on that one!

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here

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