Rohit Sharma opening the batting in Test cricket has been a heavily discussed topic in the recent weeks.
Promoted to the top of the order in Visakhapatnam, Rohit responded with back to back centuries (176 & 127), crucial to India’s massive 203-run win, before Kagiso Rabada got the better of him in Pune for 14.
In his column for Cricinfo, Ian Chappell explains that moving Rohit up the order is the best possible thing to have happened for the player, and praised the selectors for taking this calculated gamble in favour of the batsman.
“As a one-day opener Rohit has established himself as the next most dangerous batsman to his team-mate Kohli. The move to opening means that he bats ahead of Kohli in Test matches, and this is crucial to revitalising his career in the longer format.
“There appeared to be two things holding Rohit back at Test level: he seemed unsure about what type of player he should be, and at times he seemed overawed by Kohli’s glowing presence.”
The former Australian cricketer writes that the change in position helps clear any sort of clutter from his mind.
“The advantage to Rohit opening is, it paints for him a clear picture of how he should play. He obviously needs to be watchful at first, but there’s also plenty of opportunity to score quickly with the field up. If he does get a start, it then means he’s more at ease when facing spinners with some runs under his belt.
“This paid big dividends during his twin centuries in Vizag. He clouted an inordinate number of sixes in that Test. This is in sharp contrast to some Test innings I’ve seen him play down the order, where, early in his innings, he has committed hara-kiri in trying to establish his authority over the spinners,” Chappell noted.
Chappell also goes onto explain, with an example from Australia’s games against West Indies, that being overawed by the presence of Kohli boils down to the response to his appearance at the crease which is often enough to intimidate the best players. A lot of opposition players would find it hard to disagree.
“Rohit’s predicament is one I’ve witnessed before. Whenever Viv Richards entered the arena, I felt Australia’s chances of removing West Indies opener Gordon Greenidge improved. Greenidge was a very fine batsman - he probably never realised how good - but such was Richards’ aura that Greenidge appeared to shrink in his presence.
“Batting Rohit ahead of Kohli affords him the opportunity to establish himself before the captain arrives at the crease. This, in turn, diminishes any adverse effect the crowd’s infatuation with Kohli is likely to have on Rohit.
“If this move works, it will help not only India but also Test cricket, because, even though he’s no longer a kid, Rohit still entertains the fans.”