'He worked so hard and if he gets an opportunity, I will be very happy and I sure, he will do well. We all know the quality he has -- special talent.'
Ajinkya Rahane on why fellow Mumbaikar Rohit Sharma deserves another opportunity in Test cricket. Rediff.com's Harish Kotian listens in.
India's Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane gave his firm backing to Mumbai team mate Rohit Sharma, saying it is hard to see him sit out in Test cricket.
Rohit, who didn't make it to the playing XI in the two-Test series in the West Indies, could be given another opportunity to revive his Test career, with the selectors looking towards him opening the innings.
He is tipped to open the batting in the upcoming three-Test series against South Africa -- a position where he has excelled in ODIs -- after regular opener KL Rahul was dropped following his poor showing in the Caribbean.
Asked whether he was in favour of Rohit opening the innings in Tests, Rahane replied: "I don't know yet whether Rohit will open the innings. If he does, I will be happy for him."
"I said in the West Indies also, it is hard to see a player like Rohit sitting out. He worked so hard and if he gets an opportunity, I will be very happy and I sure, he will do well. We all know the quality he has -- special talent.
"Test cricket is all about mindset and ODI cricket, you can just go out there and back yourself. In Test cricket, sometimes if two bowlers are bowling good spells, you need to respect that and come out strong and play your game after that. If Rohit plays, I will be happy," he further said during a media interaction organised by his employers Indian Oil, in Mumbai on Thursday.
While Rohit is one of India's batting mainstays in the limited overs format, he has failed to replicate that success in Tests. The 32-year-old, who made his debut in 2013 in the five-day format, has managed just 1585 runs in 27 Tests at an average of 39.
He last featured in the Test series in Australia, where he made an impressive 63 not out in the Melbourne Test, in December last year but missed the next match in Sydney to attend to his newborn daughter and wife.
Rohit was then not considered for both the Test matches in the West Indies as India went in with Hanuma Vihari, who grabbed his opportunities at No 6 to finish with 289 runs in the series at an average of 96, inclusive of two fifties and a century.
Meanwhile, Rahane also managed to silence his critics with a strong showing with the bat in the West Indies. He scored his first century in two years and also hit a couple of half-centuries to tally 271 runs in the series.
The Mumbaikar said his stint with English county side Hampshire helped him getting his batting back on track after he struggled in Australia. Rahane started with a century on debut for Hampshire but struggled to maintain his form as he managed just one fifty in the next six games.
"After the Australia series there was a long break. When I got to know that I was not part of the World Cup squad, my plan was to play county cricket and luckily the Hampshire people called me and asked about county cricket. I thought I can actually use my time really well and learn about cricket and life.
"It's a completely different experience when you play county cricket. Here, we get things so easily. In county cricket, you need to do everything on your own.
"Apart from cricket, small things helped me a lot. I used to walk alone after the practice session and think what was my thinking when I started playing cricket. The answer was that I enjoyed cricket rather than focusing on the outcome. When you think about focus and outcome, you put yourself under pressure.
"In county cricket, those two months, I learnt a lot. I played seven matches and the focus was actually on the red ball because I knew we would play Dukes ball in the West Indies. Trusting your ability was the key," he stated.
He also expressed his desire to make a comeback to the Indian ODI team despite having last featured in the 50-overs format in February last year. "Apart from Tests, I really enjoy playing ODI cricket as well. I want to come back to ODIs."
Looking ahead at the upcoming series against South Africa, starting in Visakhapatnam on October 2, Rahane said India will need to watch out for speedster Kagiso Rabada, who can be effective on any surface.
"Rabada is a quality bowler. He is a wicket-taker. Doesn't matter how the wicket will be. We have to respect him and the other bowlers.
"We have got a relatively young team, but their bowling attack -- fast bowlers and spinners are experienced. Keshav Maharaj has played county cricket and did well with the red ball. You need to respect them.
"We know the Indian conditions really well and we have to get off to a start really well and I always believe, when you focus on your strength as a team it doesn't matter what the opposition is doing," he said.