Timing has been boon to Rohit Sharma's batting, bane to his longevity in Test Cricket - cricxtasy.com

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Rohit Sharma tested positive for covid-19 last week, and has been ruled out of the upcoming Edgbaston Test.

September 4, 2021, 7:52 PM IST, 3:52 PM BST | India vs England - Fourth Test, The Oval, Day 3

An easy couple of steps down the track and a free-flowing swing off Moeen Ali's bowling lands deep into The Oval stands, and with it, Rohit Sharma celebrates his eight Test hundred.

“2013 was when he made his Test debut, his first overseas hundred comes in 2021,” Sanjay Manjrekar pointed out on air. 

That 127-run knock, brought about by spending nearly six hours at the crease, came after India had conceded a 99-run lead in the first innings, and set it up for a 157-run win. With 368 runs at 52.57, he finished India’s highest run-getter across the four Tests and a year later, would be presented a chance to lead the team to complete possibly one of its most significant series wins.

However, came an untimely, unfortunate news of him being tested covid-19 positive, ruling him out of India’s another crucial Test assignment. This perhaps would’ve been his greatest challenge yet, being his first ever overseas Test as India captain.

Less than an hour earlier than reaching his hundred at The Oval, he reached 3,000 runs in the format, and Harsha Bhogle would remark: “You look at Rohit Sharma and you think he’s a 100-Tests player.”

That unfortunately, appears a seemingly distant dream for a player with a first-class average of 54.15 and a triple-hundred, and countless accomplishments in white-ball cricket.

— Sony Sports Network (@SonySportsNetwk) September 4, 2021

Into his ninth year since his debut in November 2013, Rohit, aged 35, has played 45 Tests. 52 players, including seven Indians have more appearances in the period. He’s played 19 Tests in the SENA countries and quite staggeringly, that is exceeded by Jasprit Bumrah (23) and Rishabh Pant (20), both of whom received their maiden Test caps in 2018.

While inconsistency at early stages of his Test career kept him out of the setup for a considerable time, the injury setbacks have been no less frustrating.

Timing has been the key essence to Rohit’s batting, which grabbed eyeballs during the mid 2000s even before he would make his India debut in 2007, and the sublimity has had people caught in awe and admiration ever since. Ironically, it’s that timing aspect that has been his undoing somewhat in the longest version - not while on the field, but when off it - with injuries and illness limiting a potentially rich Test career. 

It all started back in February 2010, when a 23-year-old Rohit was set to make his Test debut against South Africa in Nagpur, with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman out with injuries. However, he injured his ankle while playing football in the warm-up, making way for Wriddhiman Saha to play his maiden Test as a specialist batsman. Then followed an extended wait for well over three years, before he’d get his maiden Test cap in the home series against the West Indies in 2013.

Match-winning hundreds in the first two games promised much, but underwhelming returns in India’s next overseas cycle led to an axe, and scattered chances thereafter. 

Rohit Sharma made his Test debut in 2013; Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant in 2018.

Overall SENA appearances:

Bumrah – 23
Pant – 20
Rohit – 19 #INDvENG #RohitSharma

— Roshan Gede (@GedeRoshan) June 29, 2022

Scores of 176, 127, 14 and 212 in his first series as an opener - at home against South Africa in 2019 - promised a career-revival, as it had been in white-ball cricket since being promoted at the top by MS Dhoni in the victorious Champions Trophy 2013, but the Test journey continues to have a start-stop pattern.

He was ruled out of the ODIs and Tests during the 2020 New Zealand tour, having sustained a calf injury in the preceding T20Is. India were eventually clean swept 0-3 and 0-2 in the respective series.

Later that year came an ambiguous sequence. He suffered a hamstring strain on his left leg during Mumbai Indians’ IPL 2020 game against the Punjab Kings. The scan reports revealed a ligament tear a week later, and he was subsequently sidelined from the all-format tour of Australia.

'The BCCI Medical Team will continue to monitor the progress of Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma,’ read a statement in the BCCI official release on October 26, 2020, which also confirmed KL Rahul named the vice-captain for ODIs and T20Is.

However, the very same day, the Mumbai Indians put up a video of the right-hander practising in nets, casting further speculation of the nature of injury, and there remained questions over the transparency from the selection committee and the rest involved.

“Rohit is injured at the moment. Otherwise, why would we leave out a player like him?” BCCI President Sourav Ganguly stated in a conversation with PTI on November 3.

Rohit would raise eyebrows walking at the toss for MI’s league game against SRH later that evening, and score 4 off 7 in a 10-wicket defeat. He eventually led the team to their fifth IPL title, and remained out of action thereafter. He headed to Australia ahead of the four-match Test series succeeding the white-ball leg, and missed the first two games while serving the mandatory quarantine on arrival, before featuring in India’s historic results in Sydney and Brisbane.

In late 2021, he sustained another hamstring injury during a practice session in Mumbai and missed the entirety of South Africa 2021/22 tour, after being named India’s white-ball captain, replacing Virat Kohli in the role.

The troubled series of sequences, featuring untimely halts, has potentially caused him to miss nine Tests (including the upcoming one) in SENA counties since the start of 2020.

Till date, Rohit has 1,760 runs at 73.33 at home, which dips to 31.3 overseas, the latter aspect being a key determinant to a batsman’s pedigree and success, especially in the Test format. He had excelled in England last year, but the wait has continued since.

His prime focus would primarily lay on the T20 World Cup later this year in Australia, with an aim to end India’s ICC Trophy drought lasting almost a decade now. As for Tests, they are scheduled to play four home games against Australia later this year, followed by two in Bangladesh.

The next SENA assignment could potentially be at Lord’s - the WTC final - if India, placed currently third in the points table, manages to progress. Lord’s brings reminiscence of a beautifully crafted 83 on the opening day of the second Test last year, but we’ll never get enough of the unmatched class.

Rohit would least care about the misses, if he does get his hands on the coveted trophy. That would demand a combination of batting consistency, quality decision making and sustained fitness.

His captaincy skills will be tested in the Test format with time. Form and application hasn’t been a concern anymore, the fitness (and the luck) perhaps is!

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