India chief selector MSK Prasad has said he is worried with KL Rahul’s poor form in Test cricket and indicated it might be time for Rohit Sharma to step up as an opener in the five-day format as well.
Rohit Sharma is the most dangerous opening batsman in the shorter formats with 3 ODI double hundreds and 4 T20I hundreds but is yet to seal a permanent berth in the Test team. He was part of the Test squad for the 2-match series in the West Indies but he did not get to play either game.
Rohit Sharma was seen as a middle-order option but Hanuma Vihari has cemented the No.6 with some sensational performances in the Caribbean. That leaves Rohit Sharma with an opportunity to try and fit in as an opener in the Test side.
Back in 2013, Rohit Sharma was promoted to open the innings for India in ODIs with Shikhar Dhawan and he has not looked back since.
While Hanuma Vihari has justified Virat Kohli’s decision to pick him over Rohit Sharma in the middle-order during the recent two-Test series against the West Indies, KL Rahul has only flattered to deceive, exactly the point that former captain Sourav Ganguly also made.
India next play South Africa at home in a three-match T20I series, which will be followed by three Tests. The Test squad is yet to be announced and the big question is if Rohit will be tried as an opener ahead of Rahul.
The answer lies with the captain and the national selectors, who are yet to zero in on the squad for the Test series. Ganguly, VVS Laxman and former opener Gautam Gambhir have insisted that Rohit should be given a chance at the top of the order at the expense of KL Rahul.
National selectors have not rejected the idea and could consider the proposition when they sit to select the Test team.
“As selection committee we haven’t met after the conclusion of the West Indies tour. We will definitely take this (Rohit as opener) point into consideration when we all meet and discuss about it,” MSK Prasad, chairman of the national selection committee, told India Today in an exclusive interview.
“KL (Rahul) is definitely a great talent. Of course, he is going through a bit tough time in Test cricket. We are definitely concerned about his form. He needs to spend more time on the wicket and regain his touch and form,” the former wicketkeeper-batsman added.
For two years in the lead up to the World Cup, India preferred wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav over seasoned campaigners like R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Though Washington Sundar was there in India’s T20 teams, leg-spinner Rahul Chahar’s inclusion has pushed Chahal and Kuldeep out of the squads from the shorter format. India’s next big ICC assignment will be the T20 World Cup next year in Australia. So have Chahal and Kuldeep slipped down the pecking order?
Not really, if Prasad is to believed. “In order to bring variety in the spin bowling department, we have been trying youngsters keeping in view of the T20 World Cup in Australia. Chahal and Kuldeep have been outstanding performers in the shorter formats in the last two years. They are definitely ahead in the race now. It’s just that we are trying few other options now.”
After an abrupt end to India’s campaign at the World Cup, the team did well on the tour that followed, winning the T20I, ODI and Test series in the Caribbean. Prasad looked reasonably satisfied with the success on the tour and pointed out the positives that the team brought back home.
“In shorter formats, we have seen Shreyas Iyer emerging as a matured batsman who can play to the situations and demands of the team and deliver accordingly. Similarly, we have seen (Navdeep) Saini, Krunal (Pandya), Washington (Sundar) progressing well in shorter formats.
“In the longer format we have seen solid performances from young Vihari. He was clearly the stand out performer in this series apart from Bumrah, who was outstanding with the ball. I am also very happy with the form of Ajinkya Rahane because he is very crucial for the success of Indian team in this format.”
Kohli has so much to offer as captain
The victory in the last Test at Jamaica not only handed India the series but also made Virat Kohli India’s most successful Test captain with 28 wins. So how does Prasad, who took over as chairman of selectors in 2016, see the evolution of Virat as captain?
“I am extremely happy that Virat is being hailed as the most successful Test captain in Indian history. He has been improving as captain with every passing game. I feel he has so much to offer as captain in times to come. He is still young and he has a long journey ahead as captain in this format (Test). He has a wonderful mix of youth and experienced players in the side to lead and I wish that he should plan well and lead this team and win the World Test Championship,” said Prasad.
Often selectors have to take the flak for the team’s failures and there are always opinion on selection and non-selection of some player or the other. Does that bother the selectors?
“Our primary focus should be on identifying right talent and groom that talent before they are inducted into the Indian team. I am not worried about the external factors because they are not in my control. As long as we are doing our job honestly, sincerely and with highest degree of integrity that is good enough. Moreover, I always share with my colleagues that when our intentions are right then nature will conspire itself and help us in executing our jobs to the perfection.