Rohit Sharma last played against New Zealand scoring three fifties © AFP
Rohit Sharma last played against New Zealand scoring three fifties © AFP

“I am targeting the Australia series if all goes well,” read Rohit Sharma’s tweet early this year when he was back to India following his thigh surgery. Although Rohit did not make the cut in the squad for the first two Tests in the ongoing series against Australia, there was a ray of hope to comeback in the last two. Unfortunately, that did not happen when the selectors announced the squad on Thursday. One could hardly blame the selectors. Even his most ardent supporters (including me) had to accept this without much fuss. Just to throw light on where we are heading, let us date back to November 2013.

Rohit’s first Test at his hometown Mumbai was the second of his career, against West Indies, in Sachin Tendulkar’s final Test. He came to the Test riding on a hundred on Test debut, at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. A packed Wankhede Stadium was applauding and cheering — not for Rohit, but to celebrate Tendulkar, who had held the team together with cricket for years. West Indies were wrapped for paltry of 182 in the first innings.

In response, India found stability under Tendulkar’s presence. After Narsingh Deonarine dismissed Tendulkar for 74, the crowd probably sensed a collapse. But Rohit walked in at No. 6 to raise the decibel level of Wankhede with his timely shots.

Rohit scored his second consecutive century. He became the third Indian (after Mohammad Azharuddin and Sourav Ganguly) to score hundreds in his first two Tests. He also won the hearts of the crowd.

Wherever the team wants me to play, I have to adapt to it. I have to be ready to bat anywhere. It’s not that I’m going to say no to opening

It has been dream journey for Rohit in ODIs, T20Is, and IPL — leading Mumbai Indians to two titles in the last. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in the longest format. Rohit is yet to score his third Test century, and his next 36 innings have fetched a mere 7 fifties.

Rohit last appeared in the New Zealand series earlier this season. Unfortunately, a thigh injury kept him out of the England and Bangladesh series. Karun Nair arrived with an emphatic triple-hundred, sealing a spot and preventing Rohit from making a comeback. One must also remember that Parthiv Patel did a decent job with bat as well, and he can bat in the middle-order as well as at the top as well as keep wickets.

Rohit, desperate to come back, has announced that he is prepared to bat anywhere in the order, even at the top.

Virat Kohli’s blind belief, soon to fade…

The selectors may not choose Rohit, but Virat Kohli has always made it clear that he is keen on having Rohit in the XI. Before Kohli, MS Dhoni had also backed Rohit across formats.

Prior to the third Test against West Indies last year, Kohli opted for Rohit in the playing XI ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara. Rohit failed, scoring 9 and 41. Pujara came back to the side with an emphatic performance in the Duleep Trophy, but Rohit clung on, with a fifty in each of the three Tests of the New Zealand series.

The injury did not have an impact on Kohli’s faith on Rohit. Speaking to the media ahead of the England Test series, Kohli had mentioned, “If Rohit was in the side, there is no question that he would be then opening with Rahul.”

Players who fixed the puzzle

Things do not look good for Rohit at this stage. KL Rahul has bounced back to prove his credibility when the chips were down during the ongoing Test series against Australia, shrugging off a shoulder injury. Nair has been so good that a section of fans was not happy when Ajinkya Rahane was picked ahead of him. And with Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav all contributing with bat, it is clear that India can go in with five bowlers, at least at home.

With Pujara, Kohli and Rahane being obvious picks and Nair as reserve, the only slots open for Rohit are at the top. Rohit may find contest even there, given Murali Vijay’s permanent presence, Rahul’s form and Parthiv’s comeback.

The not-so-big comeback

Fans were delighted when Rohit announced his comeback earlier this month.

 

Rohit returned to domestic cricket with the ongoing Vijay Hazare tournament. Unfortunately, that bore little fruit. He scored 16 and 4.

Speaking to ForbesLife India, Rohit had said, “Remember what [Novak] Djokovic said after his Wimbledon loss to Sam Querrey? That he will move on from the loss stronger. That is my motto too, to emerge stronger from every setback.”

It is, however, time for Rohit to take a leaf from the challenges and wake up before his dreams of Test cricket diminishes forever.