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Why Virat Kohli must stick to his guns

by Gaurav Sethi

This isn’t a kneejerk reaction to India’s defeat. It might help Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri to not act in haste too, but instead question their motives before the first Test – the team they picked and what they hoped to achieve with it.

In the past it has often been far too convenient to pick players for a Test and drop them when they haven’t passed muster – only to be dictated by their limited overs’ form and picked for Test cricket again.

The pull of ODIs and T20s far exceeds that of Tests, and every second 50 over game hurls a new hero at us. What then, if the new hero is an old hero – what if he is Rohit Sharma, the man who marched merrily to his third ODI double hundred just the other day.

Barely a few weeks before that, Rohit recorded his third Test century – more than four years after his second. It can be argued that in more than five years, Rohit has played very few Tests, only 24. And he’s way too often been in and out of the side than a card carrying member. This of course is unlike Rohit-the-ODI-warrior, the very player that makes Kohli take a punt on him in Test matches, again and again.

Only to be faced with that same old reality when India travel overseas. Which is when an impatient media questions results, selection, and more often than not, the team returns to the more logical XI.

But this selection business is way too cyclical – the invisible Tests are over, the mega ODIs return, Rohit and Dhawan return to run making mayhem, and subsequently to the Test side. It now appears, every Test specialist has had to make room for our one-day wonders.

For an age, both Kohli and Shastri have spoken of intent, and this very intent has consumed the spots of both Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. The intent-storm has now taken Ajinka Rahane in its wake.

Less than ten days after his third double century, stand-in skipper, Rohit Sharma stormed his way to 118 off 43 deliveries in a T20. Against Sri Lanka. In India.

It was good enough for Shastri & Kohli to pen Rohit’s name in the playing XI in a Test match. Against South Africa. In South Africa.

In a low scoring Test, Rohit reached double figures in both innings – 11 and 10. He was at the crease for 95 minutes in the first, and another 50 in the second. He faced 89 deliveries in all, on that Wanderers’ pitch, that was something. What was missing though was the very intent that Kohli & Shastri play a batsman like Rohit for – instead, Rohit pulls off a Pujara, and should be ridiculed for lack of intent. But that’s a long shot. (Only AB de Villiers, a few of his mates and Hardik Pandya showed any intent with the bat, that too in the first innings.)

Or is it such a long shot? It’s for Kohli to decide what kind of Rohit does he want – Pujara wallah Rohit? Pandya wallah Rohit? Or Rohit wallah Rohit? Doubt a player like Rohit can be all things for his captain just yet, but if there is clarity in communication, instead of making him something he’s not, who knows, maybe they still have a shot at Test redemption for Rohit.

To drop him yet again is almost too easy. Instead, it’s time for Kohli to back Rohit through the series and ensure he plays all three Tests.

Time to drop the old excuses, the old alibis, and let performance in a particular format decide who plays when. If Rohit proves himself, there will be no stopping him from playing in England or Australia, and not just against Sri Lanka. If he doesn’t, there’s no reason he should continue to be in the squad.

Not long ago, a triple centurion who few remember now sat out for Ajinkya Rahane. Now that very Ajinkya Rahane is sitting out for Rohit Sharma.

If Kohli & Shastri want to draw the long-term roadmap for this Test side, they might need to throw Shikhar Dhawan, like Rohit, into the deep end – and ensure he too plays all three Tests.

The results can be rewarding, but for that, the men that matter, must continue to go with their gut. As they did when writing those eleven names on the team sheet.

Jaspreet Bumrah making his debut over Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. Neither expert in the Sony Studios had him in their playing eleven. Both had Ishant who would’ve played his 80th Test.

But Kohli & Shastri are not in the studio. They are in Africa. And in the jungle, they must apply the rules of the jungle. And if they think an antelope can do the job, they shouldn’t look for a zebra. Even if it makes no sense to anyone else. They just got to go by their own inner growls. And hope their pick roars at the opposition. Asking your wild cat to meow, doesn’t make sense.

First published here 


Match prediction said...

yes! why not?
Rohit Sharma should another chance in third test match.

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