Friday, 31 October 2014

Rohit Sharma looks to strengthen career after an inconsistent year


Rohit Sharma was flawless  when he scored 142 against Sri Lanka in the warm-up match © IANS (File Photo)
Rohit Sharma was flawless when he scored 142 against Sri Lanka in the warm-up match © IANS
After a 10-week injury layoff, Rohit Sharma is all set to return to the Indian team. If there was any doubt whether he returns as an opener or middle-order batsman, the batsman has quelled the debate with a breezy knock in tour game. But there’s much more at stake than just a return to limited-overs cricket.
Back from an injury to his middle finger, Rohit Sharma’s fluent 142 in 111 balls against Sri Lanka A gave an indication that he is completely fit and in good nick to return to the national side. He will have to wait for his chances as the selectors have already picked the squad first three matches.
The unwelcome injury break gave Rohit enough time to regroup himself and mentally prepare after a mixed 2014 for him. He played a couple of fine knocks in between two or three inconsistent ones in the limited ODIs. In the second half of 2013, Rohit’s career sparkled as an opener during the Champions Trophy 2013 followed by followed by taking the team past the finish line in mammoth run-chases. He averaged 52.80 compared to his overall batting average of 35.93. However, this year, the average has dipped below his ODI career average, though just 10 ODIs does not always give a clear picture.
The difference between the pre-opener phase and now for Rohit is his value for the team. He was a talented batsman whom the selectors picked because of his potential with tons of runs in domestic cricket. As of now he is being looked upon as a dependable player to lead the batting for India.  Inconsistency then saw him dropped. Inconsistency becomes a worrying factor because the selectors have their hopes pinned on him as an opener, if not, then at least as a reliable middle-order batsman.
Some of his shots during the 142-run knock would have delighted the chief selector Sandeep Patil, in attendance for the match.  The fact that the selectors did not rush him in to the Indian squad and neither did they pick him for the West Zone matches for the upcoming Vijay Hazare Trophy shows they want him fully recovered for the grueling schedule involving preparations for World Cup.
“His match fitness had to be assessed and that was the reason that the selectors had roped him in. He gave a fantastic account of himself. He has been practicing really hard over the last 10 days at Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC). And he showed the total recovery from that injury while batting and he showed no discomfort at all,” confirmed Sanjay Bangar after the match on Thursday.
All these do indicate that a good show in the limited overs for Rohit could keep him in contention for a regular spot in the Tests. Since his memorable debut involving centuries in consecutive Tests, Rohit is yet to instill confidence as a sound batsman in any conditions. While a Test team comprising of seven batsmen would see him come at No. 6, he will be facing competition now from Suresh Raina who has worked upon his technique and looks set to take make a comeback.
Rohit’s priority surely would be to be fit and be in good nick for the World Cup. Yet, beyond the marquee tournament, he would be eager to build his reputation of being a quality batsman for all formats and any conditions which some his teammates like Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane have already managed to do.