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The advent of Rohit Sharma 2.0 in the longest format during WTC

Rohit Sharma is often synonymous with talent, and why wouldn’t he be? Watching him bat is a treat to watch. His effortless sixes are the ones to savour. Back in 2007-08 as a 20-year-old, Rohit Sharma announced his arrival in international cricket in one-day internationals with a good performance in the CB Series down under. However, he made his debut in the longest format only in 2013. Such was his reputation that very few people thought he could excel in Test cricket.

After waiting for such a long time, Rohit Sharma got his chance in Tests. Apparently, it was also Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell series. Playing against West Indies, he made a terrific debut, scoring 177 runs off 301 balls at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. This is the second-highest score in a Test match played in India by a debutant; the highest score is Shikhar Dhawan’s 187 against Australia in Mohali in 2013. Rohit followed it up with a fabulous 111* in the second Test at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. With those performances, Rohit began his quest to be an all-format player for India.

Expectations were too high but Rohit’s performances thereafter weren’t attracting a lot of praise. The management, however, reaped faith in him and gave him a longer run in Test Cricket. His batting average, however, went for a toss, especially in overseas conditions. Until December 2018, Rohit represented India in 27 Tests, of which 18 were played in overseas conditions.

It is noteworthy that the right-hander scored 1585 runs in 47 innings spread across 27 Tests from the time he made his debut until December 2018. His batting average during this period was 39.62 and the Hitman had scored three centuries and 10 half-centuries during this period.

The scoring rate was fine as far as his record in India was concerned. He scored 769 runs in 14 innings at a jaw-dropping average of 85.44. However, his numbers in the away Tests were disappointing. Averaging 26.32, he scored 816 runs in 33 innings, including five half-centuries and three ducks. Rohit Sharma’s dream of producing a successful run in Tests was in the doldrums.

The Second Innings

Come the start of the World Test Championship in 2019, the vice-captain of India’s limited over’s team was given another chance and Rohit wasn’t going to give it away too easily this time around. He was offered the opening slot amidst India’s search for the ideal opener in Tests.

What followed was a barrage of runs against South Africa and Bangladesh in the WTC during the home season of 2019/20. He amassed 556 runs in only five Tests at an astonishing average of 92.66. He hit as many as three hundred in the Tests against South Africa and Bangladesh.

Unfortunately, he missed the New Zealand tour owing to his shoulder injury but made himself available in the final two Tests of the Border Gavaskar Series played in 2020-21.

Ahead of the start of the Border-Gavaskar series, there were question marks over his availability and his competence against the foreign bowlers outside the subcontinent conditions. Rohit, however, was prepared this time around, coming with an immense amount of experience with him.

He struck two half-centuries in four innings and denied Australia quick wickets early into the innings. He scored 129 runs in 2 Tests at an average of 32.25. His dominance at home didn’t stop either.

Rohit came back to India and became the team's saviour in a crucial Test series against England played earlier this year. On rank turners where all the batsmen were struggling, Rohit mixed caution and aggression in equal measure to help India win the series 3-1. Rohit was India's highest run-scorer, amassing 345 runs in 4 Tests at an average of 57.50, including one century and one half-century.

Over the last few years, India had tried different options as openers. Rohit Sharma excelled in all of them as far as numbers are concerned. In 11 games, he has scored 1030 runs at an average of 64.37 since the start of the World Test Championship. He has struck four hundred during this period and has hit two half-centuries.

The other most consistent opener for India has been Mayank Agarwal who has played six games during this period, scoring 644 runs at 80.50.

The Bigger Test awaits Hitman

There is every reason to believe that Rohit Sharma has played an integral role in helping India reach the final of the World Test Championship. The team is one game away from lifting the trophy and Rohit Sharma knows he still has a lot to prove.

The question marks on Rohit Sharma’s ability to counter foreign bowlers in overseas conditions still exist. Rohit Sharma is yet to be tested in conditions where the ball does a lot. Will he be able to excel in swinging conditions is yet to be ascertained.

After the World Test Championship final, India will play a five-match Test series in the UK. It will be interesting to see how Rohit Sharma fares in those conditions. Unarguably, the biggest test in Rohit Sharma’s Test career, one that could come in between his desire to become an all-format great, awaits. For now, we will have to wait for a few more days before the action begins.

India and New Zealand are scheduled to play the World Test Championship final in England from June 18-22.


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