While India and many of their players improved their stock during the Australia tour, one can’t say the same about Rohit Sharma. If anything, his stock has seen a big dip.
Not long ago his credentials soared in the wake of winning the IPL with Mumbai Indians for the fifth time. Some groups in Indian cricket were discussing — though in an undertone — the possibility of Rohit being made India captain in white-ball cricket, particularly the T20Is.
Then the big controversy erupted as he was left out of the Australia touring party on account of injury even as he continued being with Mumbai Indians before going on to play a couple of matches towards the very end of the league.
He was eventually brought back to the Test team, available for the last two games though, and those were his chances to prove how big and important he was as a player. Also, those were his chances to get his own back on the BCCI — of course if there was a feeling of being hard done by, which can’t be ruled out in light of the scale of the controversy.
However, Rohit failed in those matches on the best batting pitches of the series. And more importantly at a time when the team, in the absence of Virat Kohli, really needed him to lend a helping hand to Ajinkya Rahane in the batting department. With injuries accounting for many experienced players, it was his responsibility to show the way and make life easy for the newcomers. Exactly opposite transpired though. It was the youngsters who showed big heart and made the impossible possible in Australia.
While to his credit Rohit took some nice catches in the slips, good catching is just adornment to a batsman. It’s his batting that the entire nation was looking to. He got starts but couldn’t convert them into big scores and there were a couple of occasions when his shot selection came under the scanner. In the Sydney Test he played a pull shot and found a fielder in the deep towards the end of Day 4 when he could have just closed out the day safe and sound and push India’s cause on the final day. Even worse shot came to pass in Brisbane when in the first innings he stepped out to Nathan Lyon and found a fielder at long-on particularly placed for him. After 13 years in international cricket, you don’t fall into a trap like that, do you?
However, sadly to everyone’s surprise he didn’t look remorseful at all in the midst of criticism. He defended his approach vehemently even as former players, most notably Sunil Gavaskar, turned up the heat on him. Then in the all-important innings, the final one at the Gabba, he deserted India early on Day 5 and left them to fend for themselves.
Maybe this approach towards Test cricket was the reason why he couldn’t really settle into the team for the longest. Rohit did really disappoint his fans, no doubt about it.
Against England, Rohit is expected to score runs in familiar conditions but they will go little way towards patching up his reputation. He really needs to do something out of the ordinary to bring back the spotlight on himself, something big enough to make his Australia failure a distant memory. Maybe a big double hundred or a triple hundred is the way out of this hole he has dug for himself.
Virat Kohli will be the happiest out of it all and the best part is he didn’t have to do much to kill the competition from Rohit. It was the opener who himself blew his chances and put paid to all captaincy comparisons and that if he was a better batsman than Kohli. In all the matches in Australia that Kohli played before taking paternity leave, he batted with a lot of responsibility and purpose and showed on many occasions that he was still India’s number one batsman by a mile across all formats. His 70-odd in Adelaide in hostile conditions before the unfortunate run-out was nothing short of a clinic, not only for budding cricketers but also other batsmen in the team.
As it is, it was difficult for Rohit to usurp the T20I captaincy as Kohli enjoys big support in the BCCI but now after the Australia tour, the task is so much tougher. It would not be wrong to say those four innings in Australia have done big damage, something he may never recover from in terms of taking his stock to another level – to the India captaincy in T20I cricket.
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