Come January 7 next year, India and Australia will contest an all-important third Test match at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground. The Test will also mark the return of Rohit Sharma to the Indian team after missing the majority of the Australian summer with an injury he suffered a couple of months back.
The Mumbai Indians skipper sustained a hamstring strain during IPL 2020. The veteran batsman was originally not selected to play in any of the formats down under but is now pencilled to play in the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Rohit’s availability is vital to India’s chances of retaining the coveted trophy, especially after skipper Virat Kohli’s departure back home after the Day-Night Test match at the Adelaide Oval.
Rohit is currently serving his 14-day quarantine in Sydney and has been unable to train. However, the BCCI constantly monitored Rohit’s progress since he underwent his rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore.
Although he has been one of India’s greatest batsmen in the last decade in the limited-overs format, his Test career hasn’t reflected the same in recent years. So far, he has played just 32 Test matches, wherein, he has scored 2141 runs at an average of 46.54. In the longest format of the game, Rohit has smashed a double hundred and six centuries so far.
Rohit Sharma key for India
What makes Rohit Sharma such a vital player in the last two Tests of the series is his obvious pedigree and experience of playing in Australia. Although Rohit would want to improve his batting exploits away from home, he nonetheless has had a memorable home season in 2019. He established himself as an all-format opener with some terrific performances versus South Africa. Post the 2019/20 home season, Sharma has a batting average of 88.33 in Test matches at home.
However, his record in overseas Tests is not much to speak of. The swashbuckling batsman has played 33 Test innings in foreign conditions, aggregating 816 runs at an average of 26.32. His career strike rate in Tests is 59.26, but on overseas pitches, the same dips to 47.97.
In the two Tests that he played in Australia two years ago, Rohit had scored 106 runs in four innings with an unbeaten 63 as his top score.
In all, Rohit has featured in five Test matches Down Under. He has scored 279 runs at a decent average of 31 in those five games. And that experience will count as much as the runs that he scores.
Rohit Sharma and leadership
Agreed Ajinkya Rahae is Virat Kohli’s deputy in Test cricket, and led the team admirably in Kohli’s absence at the Boxing Day Test. He still would welcome an experience of Rohit Sharma to assist him. Apart from his exploits with the bat, the 33-year old would be an invaluable addition also on the leadership front, considering Virat Kohli’s unavailability. When fit, Rohit will most likely open the innings for the tourists, meaning Shubman Gill will fill in the middle-order.
Rohit has led Mumbai Indians to multiple IPL titles and won two major trophies for India in Nidahas Trophy and Asia Cup.
As an opener, he can play the same role that Sehwag did in the 2004 series and can win you games. Pujara’s role becomes even more important at number three as he will be the glue holding everyone together and see off the new ball. Virat Kohli’s absence will leave a “big hole” in the Indian team but the visitors have a lot of talented players who can put their hands up in pressure situations.
Considering the larger spectrum of the series, Rohit Sharma’s inclusion in the Indian team could prove to be just the factor that India needed at large.