By Madhav Sharma
Now that Sachin Tendulkar has decided to hang his boots, the big question that arises is: “Who will take his No 4 spot in India’s Test line-up?” It’s not a void that Tendulkar will leave; it will be a huge crater.
Indian cricket is going through a purple patch, with young and talented cricketers providing much cheer and promise. Despite the exits in quick successions of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and soon Tendulkar, the Indian middle-order looks in good hands with the likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara looking well entrenched and players like Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary offering the national selectors quality choice to pick the XI from.
Rahane and Rohit are the principal candidates to occupy Tendulkar’s place after the maestro’s final two Tests.
Ajinkya Rahane started his First-Class career as an opening batsman, but for some reason, he has been now labelled as a middle-order batsman. He hasn’t been given enough opportunities in Tests, to do any kind of meaningful analysis. In his First-Class career, Rahane has scored 5600 runs at an average of 60.21. Rahane has a solid technique and has the hunger and the approach to bat for long stretches. He has 19 First-Class hundreds, including two double tons, with a top score of 265 not out.
After his consistent performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL), though in his stop-start One-Day International (ODI) career he hasn’t been very successful — he average just 26.70 in his 17 outings.
Rahane has come through the ranks, after performing brilliantly at the Ranji level and other domestic tournaments. He first emerged as a Test specialist, but interestingly, people judge him on the basis of handful ODI performances. With his textbook technique and solid First-Class experience, Rahane is a very good bet for the No 5 spot.
Rohit Sharma has been through a lot; lavish praise and brutal criticism. Rohit has now cemented his place in the team and he is fully aware of his role in the shorter formats of the game. When he is batting, he seems to have so much time for his shots and makes batting look easy.
Rohit’s stats are very similar to that of Rahane: In 58 First-Class matches, he has scored 4,802 runs at an average of 60.78. Rohit has 16 hundreds, including four double hundreds and one triple hundred.
Like Rahane, Rohit has always been a consistent performer at the First-Class level, but his ODI failures have held him back. No one has ever questioned his talent, but questions have been raised about his consistency. Now that he is looking lot more confident and scoring runs consistently in the ODIs, it is easy to see why so many people want Rohit to get a run in the Indian Test side. With his class, experience and the kind of form he is in, Rohit deserves a go at No 6 in Tests.
If India have to do well in Test matches outside the sub-continent, the line-up needs the class of both Rahane and Rohit. It’s imperative as the team is now shorn of the humungous experience of Dravid, Tendulkar and VVS Laxman.
(Madhav Sharma wanted to be a cricketer. Unfortunately, he has today more words than runs to his credit! He blogs at http://madhavsharmacricket.