Rohit Sharma’s ton comes as a breath of fresh air for skipper Virat Kohli.
Social media is rife with Rohit Sharma fans sharing a stat that saw Rohit equal Don Bradman's home record after day one of the first Test at Visakhapatnam. With India's opening position a quandary and the Indian management seeking to keep Rohit in and around the setup, the Mumbaikar was given a backdoor entry to open the innings - a task familiar to him in limited-overs cricket - in Tests.
Even as Ravi Shastri, Virat Kohli and the entire Indian team backed Rohit relentlessly in press conferences, a duck in the warm-up match for Board President's XI was enough to bring social media down.
In the practice game at Vizianagaram, Rohit edged South African pacer Philander behind the stumps to Heinrich Klaasen. But at Vizag in the first Test, the opener was an epitome of patience and resilience and knocked off a fine hundred.
— Biswajit Pal (@imjitpal) October 2, 2019
The experiment was immediately deemed a huge success by fans and the Indian management alike. But are we getting carried away a bit here? Yes, Rohit hit a hundred in his debut innings at the top. Yes, India made their sixth century partnership at home since 2015 and first double century stand since Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay made 283 against Bangladesh in 2015. Yes, Rohit's last six innings at home in Tests read: 82, 51*, 102*, 65, 50 and now another hundred.
But let's take this facade down. The issue was never with Rohit Sharma performing at home. His average might be Bradman-esque for all we care in these conditions, but is he an all-condition batsman? Indian openers have been labelled poor for their returns away from home and never at home. Rohit had also hit a hundred in his debut Test innings at home from the middle-order and that experiment did not go down well away from home where his average is 26.32 after 33 innings.
His form at home and recent numbers might be breathtaking. But let's not forget that Shikhar Dhawan, who is nowhere near the Test setup now, also has a terrific record at home and has scores of 94, 23, 67 and 107 in his last four innings at home.
With domestic talents like Priyank Panchal and Abhimanyu Easwaran awaiting turns, the move to go with Rohit at the top was a shocking one but for now at least, he has settled the debate. The big question, though, is if he can replicate those numbers when India travel to New Zealand later this year. If not, is there a point in backing a 32-year old longer when there are younger exciting options available, some of whom are way better technically equipped to play the swinging ball than Rohit.
Featured image courtesy: AFP/Noah Saleem