Indian skipper Virat Kohli has been unequivocal in his theory that Rohit Sharma should bat at the pivotal number three position in Tests. This stand of his corresponds with his policy of playing aggressive cricket, which translated into India expectedly going in with five bowlers in the Galle Test. The move worked at least in the first innings of the Test, whether it can be used successfully over a longer period of time remains to be seen. But, the decision to promote Rohit to number three spot is definitely something that will come under question after yet another Test failure for the batsman.
The one down position in Tests in usually occupied by a batsman who is highly compact, or has proved his credentials as a Test batsman. So far, Rohit has done neither, which is why the choice to bat him this high up the order is somewhat baffling. Of course, he can silence all his critics with a fantastic hundred in the second innings. But, that debate can be reserved for another day. For now, he will certainly come under fire. Rohit himself has admitted that he hasn’t performed to potential. But, word talk alone isn’t enough.
If you look at Rohit’s performance in recent Tests, he should consider himself lucky to be in the starting eleven. Instead, he has got a promotion in the batting order. Since the two hundreds in his first two Tests, he only has two other scores of fifty plus to show. He is now playing in his 11th Test, and has featured in 20 innings. This means, he has failed in 16 of his 20 visits to the crease. Even the two half-centuries cannot be counted as successes in the five-day version of the game. His last two knocks have been six in Fatullah and nine at Galle.
The man he has replaced in the batting eleven, Cheteshwar Pujara, himself has been struggling lately. But, his numbers are also similar than Rohit. His last six knocks have been 73, 21, 18, 43, 25 and 21. Nothing much thus separates Rohit and Pujara. Of course, the latter’s recent downfall has been rather swift. But, he did display good form in the warm-up games. In contrast, Rohit failed in both innings during the practice match. As such, the axe continuing to fall on Pujara seems somewhat unfair.
One understands the logic behind Kohli’s decision to back Rohit. At the same time, the new Indian skipper shouldn’t hesitate in going back on his move, and admitting that he was wrong in case the Rohit promotion doesn’t work. There are more accomplished batsmen who can come in at number three. Sunil Gavaskar has suggested that Kohli himself is a better choice at the pivotal position. Ajinkya Rahane also is a sound option, and one shouldn’t rule out Pujara altogether. Of course, all this in case Rohit persistently fails to deliver at his new position.
-- By A Cricket Analyst