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'This is the best opportunity to try out Rohit as Test opener'

By HARISH KOTIAN
September 12, 2019 09:20 IST

'Rohit can bring a lot to the table.'
'And if he clicks, then imagine how strong our batting line-up will be.'

Rohit Sharma

Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

India's Test series against South Africa next month could be prove to be a watershed moment for Rohit Sharma's career in the longer format.

Hanuma Vihari's success with the bat in the West Indies has virtually ended Rohit's chances of breaking into the middle order in the Test team.

But K L Rahul's failures at the top order has handed Rohit another lifeline. Chairman of the selectors M S K Prasad has already indicated that they are considering Rohit as the opener for the three Test series against South Africa.

 

Former India batsman Pravin Amre says this is the right time to bring in Rohit into the Test team.

Rohit is riding high on confidence following his good showing in the limited overs format, including the World Cup where he hit five centuries and finished as the highest-run getter in the tournament with 648 runs.

"The way he batted in the World Cup, hitting five hundreds in the tournament, this is the best time and opportunity to try him out because his confidence is very high right now and the team should back him. His experience will be valuable for the team," Amre tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian.

"In a Test match, you need specialists. I feel all this problem started because Prithvi Shaw is unavailable as the opener for various reasons. Our middle order is quite strong so all the more reasons that Rohit, who I feel deserves another chance in Tests, should be tried as the opener," adds Amre.

Rohit has been a most consistent opener in the Twenty20 and 50-over formats, but surprisingly has not translated that good form in Test cricket.

He was dropped from the Test team last year after the tour of South Africa where he managed just 78 runs in four innings. He then made a comeback in Australia, where he scored a solid 63 not out, but missed the next match due to the birth of his daughter.

His replacement Hanuma Vihari grabbed the opportunities with both hands, including a maiden century and two fifties in the West Indies to seal his spot in the middle order.

Amre, 51, who played 15 Tests and 37 ODIs for India, believes Rohit has the required technique to succeed as an opener in Tests, which he has proved while opening the batting in ODIs in England and Australia.

"Rohit scored a lot of runs during the World Cup which was played in England where you need some technique to survive."

"In a Test match, the first choice is always specialist openers, but if you don't have a choice then you can go to someone experienced player like Rohit, because he can bring a lot to the table. And if he clicks, then imagine how strong our batting line-up will be," asserts Amre.

"When we play against strong teams like South Africa, the opener's role is very important. We are playing in home conditions where Rohit has done well. If you remember, he scored two hundreds in his first two Tests against the West Indies in Sachin Tendulkar's last series (in 2013), so he can definitely make a difference," adds Amre.

Since 2018, India have tried several players at the top of the order including Rahul, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Parthiv Patel, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari, but none have been able to seal their spots.

Rahul, who was called back after Shaw was banned for eight months for a doping offence, has played 36 Tests, but failed to score a half-century in his last seven Tests. He could be dropped for the South Africa Tests and could be replaced by Bengal opener Abhimanyu Easwaran, who has scored lot of runs in domestic cricket last season and also for India 'A'.

Amre, who is the scouting head at Delhi Capitals in the IPL, believes that Rahul can take a cue from Ajinkya Rahane who struggled at the start of his Test career but worked hard on his game and has now emerged as a key player for Team India.

"If you remember Rahane failed in his first-ever Test match, but we worked hard on his game from thereon and he became such a consistent player after that. So you need someone to guide you through the tough points and help to get your game back on track."

This (bad patch) can happen to anyone and I am sure his coaches will have seen what is going wrong and work on rectifying the problems. These phases come in every cricketer's career and it could be anything like temperament or technique, so he needs to identify where the problem is and work on it accordingly," he says.

Talking about his ward Rahane, whom he has been coaching for a long time, Amre said his good showing in the West Indies will boost his confidence for the South Africa series, where he could be up against a testing bowling attack.

"I personally feel his innings of 81 in the first innings of the first Test was so crucial for the team. He delivered when the team needed it most, when they were struggling on 25/3. With Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara already dismissed, the pressure is totally different and it was because of his contribution India got a respectable total on the board," Amre says.

Rahane ended a two-year century drought in the West Indies, which also helped silence his critics.

"And in the second innings, when he got an opportunity he completed his century which was most needed for him at that point. To be honest, I was not worried that he didn't get a hundred for quite a few games before that, as he was getting 70s or 80s on a regular basis and making contributions to the team."

"But yes, when you play for the country you need to get hundreds regularly so your confidence is always high otherwise you start doubting yourself. That century helped him to get back his self-belief and he finished as the second highest run getting the series. I am sure his confidence will be very high when he plays in the series against South Africa," believes Amre.

Amre, who was worked with Vihari at Delhi Capitals, says the Andhra right-hander is a good fit for the No 6 slot.

"He had to earn his place in the Indian team the hard way. He averages around 60 in first class cricket and he has been one of the most consistent batsman in domestic cricket across all formats."

"It is good to see he is among the runs for India in Tests because he has an important role to play at No 6."

Amre warns the Indian batsmen about the threat from South Africa fast bowling sensation Kagiso Rabada, who shone with 25 wickets in this year's IPL for Delhi Capitals.

"Most definitely Rabada will pose a big threat for the Indian batsmen. If you saw him in the IPL, he bowled some sharp spells. He is a very intelligent bowler. He got some very good skills with the ball and he can be very dangerous on a slow tracks too which makes him the one to watch out for in the upcoming series."

"I believe how the Indian batsmen handle Rabada will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the series."

India take on South Africa in a three match T20I series starting on September 15, while the three Test series begins on October 2.

HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com
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