Talented Rohit forced to face test of patience

Mumbaikar keeps the faith as one more series passes him by

There was this sweet thud of ball meeting the meat of the bat every time Rohit Sharma played a shot during his short stint at the nets. But he soon had to move away when the big boys arrived, and finally ended up offering some looseners to Virender Sehwag.

Rohit Sharma

That net session was the Rohit Sharma story so far in a nutshell, so near yet so far in Test cricket. From the time of his appearance in the under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2006, Rohit has been marked for big things, but past six seasons he’s yet to make his Test debut, and is still in the process of finding a permanent slot in the one-dayers.

His career has been neatly segmented between an ankle injury that he suffered minutes before the toss in 2010 in Nagpur against South Africa, and the period after that. Prior to that injury, Rohit Sharma easily filled the image of a talented sportsman suffering from serious attitude issues.

His record during that phase too pointed at that direction. Since his debut against Ireland in Belfast in 2007, Rohit made 743 runs from 42 one-dayers at 25.62 till February 2010, and the record neither reflected his talent nor the hype that surrounded him.

But missing a Test debut so narrowly might have taught him the importance of exploiting the opportunities, and a changed Rohit made his first appearance during that year, scoring 456 runs from 14 one-dayers at 38 with two hundreds. But those efforts weren’t enough to convince the selectors, and he was overlooked for India’s successful World Cup campaign.

The Mumbai lad on more than one occasion had admitted that it hurt like burning fire to miss a berth in the World Cup squad. His chance to turn that disappointment into performance came during the tour of the West Indies when many frontline players opted out, and Rohit grabbed the chances with both hands.

From that trip to the Caribbean, Rohit amassed 562 runs from 11 one-dayers at an astounding average of 93.66 in 2011, and he also showed a welcome trait of staying at the crease for long. Those cute thirties and fifties no longer satisfied Rohit, and he also learned the art of batting according to the needs of the team, like he showed during the one-dayers against the West Indies and England.

A lot of credit for this has to go to Duncan Fletcher. The India coach spent long hours with Rohit in the West Indies, making him understand his potential, and the expectations the team has placed on him. The faith of team management instilled in Rohit oodles of self-belief, and after two back-to-back hundreds for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy he was drafted into the Test squad against the West Indies.

But he met with another stumbling block. Virat Kohli had overtaken him as the favourite for the vacant number six slot on the backdrop of some stupendous performances in the one-dayers. A fifty at Mumbai against the West Indies, and team management’s decision to give a long rope to Kohli meant Rohit will have to wait for his Test debut.

Rohit might have been quietly fancying his chances once Kohli failed to make an impression against Australia at Melbourne and Sydney, and Perth was viewed was Kohli’s last chance to save his place in the Test squad. The Delhi lad made 44 and 75 on a difficult pitch at the WACA to purchase some more time for him in the longer format, and with the decision makers in the dressing room all in favour of giving another chance to struggling VVS Laxamn at Adelaide, the Mumbaikar will have to wait for his Test debut.

"I don't want to be unprepared. My preparation has to be 100%. It doesn't matter if I am playing or not. Preparation has to always be the same. I have to be ready to play each and every time,” Rohit said recently.

His next opportunity will come against New Zealand at home in August later this year, and Rohit will have to maintain his new-found positive mindset to seize the chance.

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