Despite having won the Gandhi-Mandela Test series against South Africa 3-0 and having leapfrogged to the No. 2 spot in the ICC Test rankings, India have visible problems in Test cricket that they should address soon to grow better as an unit. India’s ineptness to tackle spin in recent past is one of them; however, the one that Suvajit Mustafi discusses here is the strange case of Rohit Sharma. Yes, neither does it look promising; and despite the internet memes, his inclusion is nor funny anymore.

A vicious bouncer from Morne Morkel sent back Murali Vijay to the pavilion quite early on Day Three at Feroz Shah Kotla in the fourth Test between Indian and South Africa. To everyone’s surprise Rohit Sharma walked out in the middle. By giving him the No. 3 slot, the team management showed faith in him. Here was his chance to play in a pressure-free situation and get a big one. But common, you can’t be lucky all the time. First ball and Rohit received a beauty from Morkel to be cleaned up. The ball pitched on good-length, kept a bit low and zipping past his outside edge, thudded to the stumps. A golden duck now followed his first innings 1. Good ball or not, hasn’t this been Rohit’s story in Test cricket? For once there’s an excuse to be considered. Full Cricket Scorecard: India vs South Africa 2015 4th Test at Delhi

Rewind to the first innings. It was a much better batting track compared to the one in Nagpur. India were struggling at 136 for 4, when Rohit came out to bat. Here was his chance to shut everyone up with a show that everyone expects from him. He was dropped on 0 by Hashim Amla at slip. He managed a single. In a situation like that where application was required from senior batsmen, Rohit, in the very next ball he faced, went for a slog miscued it and was caught at the long-on region. Twitter erupted and once again Rohit was a butt of all jokes. But it’s more serious than that.

With 26 runs at 6.50, ended another dismal Test series for Rohit. With two hundreds in his first two Tests and an astronomical average of 288, Rohit had a start that all would envy but things fell flat thereon. In the last two years, his numbers look:











As Rohit kept squandering one opportunity after another, his Mumbai teammate Ajinkya Rahane has established himself as one of the side’s best batsmen scoring hundreds in New Zealand, England, Australia, Sri Lanka and finally at home too. During the same course, Rahane’s stats look like this:











Mind you, Rahane wasn’t meted out a ‘holy cow’ treatment and has constantly been under pressure to perform in order to keep his side. There weren’t many from the team management who hailed him in the press as the sacred one with overflowing potential. He was often thrown in deep waters and most often he swam to the shores safeguarding the treasure chest — of course the Indian team. Read: Ajinkya Rahane’s homecoming marked by India vs South Africa 2015, 4th Test at Delhi

Rahane started his international career in 2011 while Rohit made it to the side in 2007. The numbers tell you the story. Can India afford to waste a batsman’s slot like that? With now MS Dhoni retired and the greats of the previous decade long gone, the slot for sixth batsman has been one of utmost importance. Agreed that Rohit is a phenomenon in limited-overs and First-Class cricket and emerged as one of world’s best exponents of the limited-overs format. But wasn’t he given an unusual longer rope than any other cricketer?

India’s batting coach has often jumped to Rohit’s defence and hasn’t hesitated to draw comparisons. Sanjay Bangar had recently said: “There are certain times, wherein some players do take time to blossom. Best thing about Sri Lankan cricket is how they persisted with Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara. Because they stuck with them for long periods, they served the country for long with great distinction. Patience has to be shown with players as they are bound to deliver for the team.”

A year and a half into Test cricket, Sangakkara averaged close to 46 with the bat and, more importantly, was the wicketkeeper of the side. If your side’s ’keeper has such numbers, you can term him “world-class”. Also, Sanga was in his early twenties, and more importantly, were there alternatives? India have produced more prolific batsmen than Sri Lanka have. Men like Amol Muzumdar have spent entire careers in side-lines scoring in abundance in domestic cricket.

Rohit’s temperament as well as maturity to handle responsibility has come in to question and it’s something the selectors need to address. One must understand that these are international cricketers and at some point they will make use of the chances being presented to them. Why be biased to one, are we not doing injustice to other talent.

The likes of Kedar Jadhav, and more prominently, Manoj Tiwary have already spent their best years out of the side because of Rohit’s immense talent. Tiwary, a competitor for a Test berth for many years now, has scored heavily in domestic cricket and almost against every international side in tour matches. His fault was perhaps he didn’t make batting look as good as Rohit did.

There’s a new crop that’s constantly pushing the national door. Hope the likes of Gurkeerat Singh, Shreyas Iyer, Karun Nair and Sudip Chatterjee, among others, don’t go the Tiwary way in a (failed) bid to assemble a new Sangakkara.

For all the talks of Bangar on “patience”, the main stakeholders, the fans are losing it for sure. That hasn’t mattered much because most possess a short memory but what if the men competing for the slot begin to lose it too? That will cost India and the game.

Rohit’s numbers and most importantly the application doesn’t warrant a place in the No. 2 Test side. It is time selectors take a call on Rohit the way they did for Suresh Raina. There are national First-Class tournaments that will give Rohit ample opportunities to grind out and prove himself once again in the longer format — the way it had done for Ravindra Jadeja.

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sports marketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)