Curious case of Rohit Sharma-the Test cricketer

Rohit Sharma

That Rohit Sharma was timing the ball beautifully before his brain-fade moment at the Gabba was the latest episode in his short and frustrating Test career. Many pundits and former cricketers questioned the hitman’s temperament for the Test arena, given the contentious nature of his shot-selection.

Till the point of his self-inflicted dismissal, Rohit looked in a sublime form before the right-hander perished for a well-made 44. On the second day of the fourth Test, Rohit in trying to be positive chipped the ball to deepish mid-on and as a result, he was sent back to the pavilion by Nathan Lyon. With a severely depleted India looking to fight out a draw to take the Border-Gavaskar Trophy back with them, Rohit’s false shot was bound to attract undesired attraction. It always tends to happen in Test cricket when you get out to an attacking shot.

As expected, social media was filled with displeasure at the way Rohit was dismissed and the experts too were not too far off. Sunil Gavaskar on air called it an irresponsible shot, a wicket gifted away. This has been the criticism of Sharma’s batting in the past too when he has gotten off to starts and then played such an aerial shot seemingly out of nowhere.

Rohit Sharma reacts after his dismissal against Australia on Saturday.

Rohit Sharma and the temperament question

This is not the first time in the series that Nathan Lyon has lured Rohit Sharma into playing a false shot.

During the Sydney Test, not long after he had reached his half-century and with not long to go for stumps, Rohit played a pull shot that he always trusts himself to execute. Instead of playing out the remaining overs in the day, he kept going the way he liked to. The result was another dismissal close to the end of a session.

Over the years, he has always enjoyed playing at a good tempo and is blessed with the envious skill of timing. When he played this exact shot in Sydney, to the same bowler, to the same field, he managed to get closer to the pitch of the ball, kept his balance, gave himself enough room to flick his wrists. The result? The ball sped mostly along the turf to beat Mitchell Starc at long-on. In Brisbane, however, he was caught off-balance, the ball was not underneath his eye-line, and the result? The ball was skied to Mitchell Starc-who took a neat catch to dismiss Rohit against the run-of-play.

Test cricket requires certain skill sets apart from the natural cricketing talent. The likes of Rahul Dravid and Cheteshwar Pujara were not the most gifted players of their generation, but the one thing they showcased throughout their careers was high-levels of concentration to add to resilience and game-temperament.

Unfortunately, in Rohit Sharma’s case-there seems to be an emerging pattern. It’s not just the question of how he gets dismissed but when. For someone gifted with an impeccable sense of timing while batting, Rohit’s dismissals in Tests away from home have often come at an inopportune time for him and his team.

Rohit Sharma and Test career

To a lot of fans of Rohit Sharma, one of the most frustrating aspects about his career is he has played just 33 Tests prior to the Gabba Test.

Impeccable timing, varied range of shots and ability to fire off from the word go — Rohit’s illustrious career, crammed with multiple records including the highest individual score in ODIs (264), is a testament to his ability. With his nonchalant way, the swashbuckling opener has carved his niche over the years in white-ball cricket-yet, that has not reflected in equal measures when it comes to Test cricket.

It is easy, then, to be frustrated by what he does because Rohit too knows his dismissals cause frustration. Rohit’s latest dismissal wasn’t a case in isolation. The Mumbai batsman has been a serial ‘offender’ in this regard. His batting artistry can match the great VVS Laxman. The latter, however, scored 17 Test centuries and India never lost a Test when he scored a hundred away from home.

With him, at this stage of his career, it is not about technique anymore but temperament. Since the first two Tests, no other batsman has looked as much in control or classy as Rohit Sharma has, and yet, he has just 122 runs to show for it in three innings.

In Virat Kohli’s absence, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane is even more dependent on a senior like Rohit Sharma to bat responsibly with such a coveted trophy at stake, and for Rohit Sharma, the Test cricketer-the clock is ticking and fast!