After much speculation, Rohit Sharma was indeed tried as an opener in the 1st Test of the home test matches vs South Africa and resting all doubts ,he succeeded with flying colours. Before the game captain Kohli clarified that Rohit will be given enough opportunities to prove his worth as an opener in Tests ,as the management expected him to succeed specially after his lofty achievements as an ODI opener in white ball cricket for all these years. There were doubts about his ability to handle the moving red ball at the start of his innings as also his susceptibility to left arm bowling ,with its inward movement ,which has bothered him with lbws many times in past in white ball cricket. However with twin 100s at Vizag , Rohit has shown that he has the ability to succeed as an opener at test level. Yes, the docile pitch at Vizag and the lack of venom in the South African attack in the 1st test did help him to post big totals and challenges will present itself in overseas series where ball moves around and pitches are faster . It will all depend on how Rohit manages to fine tune his game to the various requirements once India again travel overseas.
As a batsman, Rohit has sound defence technique, cool temperament and plenty of strokes in his arsenal . Thus he has all the ingredients to succeed as a modern day opener. He should be a guaranteed success on subcontinent pitches and should be able to succeed in overseas as well with a bit of fine tuning and adaptation to conditions. Most importantly he needs to back his strokeplay in all conditions like Sehwag has done before him in overseas.
This brings us to the burning question, that is can Rohit Sharma emulate Sehwag’s lofty achievements as an opener? First of all, we should not compare the two players as both played with different mindsets. Sehwag was all aggression, no matter the match situation, Rohit is more calculative at the start ,and takes his time to get his bearings right. Rohit has got a better defence than Sehwag and more skilled in his onside strokes particularly the pull shot ,which was not Sehwag’s stronger option . Rohit is the better player of the short ball than Sehwag was. Hence Rohit has the ability to have an impact close to Sehwag as his game is extremely well rounded and he is a more refined version of Sehwag. His massive record breaking ODI scores at the top of the order and his ability to hit sixes at will and with grace, proves that he can get big hundreds as well in test cricket. However can he emulate Sehwag’s sensational deeds in test cricket as an opener ?
Sehwag was an out and out attacking player with hardly much thought to his defensive game. However ,he did poccess a solid backfoot defence with a straight bat and immensely uncluttered mind when he sizes up the bowlers. His head used to be still when he unleashed his attacking strokes. He used to score at a rate of knots in test cricket at a time when T20 cricket was yet to born. Sehwag’s biggest strength was his immense confidence in his attacking abilities which Rohit has to inculcate, if he wishes to match Sehwag’s heroics in test cricket. The enormous self confidence that Sehwag poccessed in his attacking game was never seen before or after him in Indian cricket. Then there was his big hundreds as whenever he got himself settled ,his centuries were invariably 150 plus knocks in most cases. Viru, had enormous gifts of timing and power in his strokes and his best and biggest hundreds were scored mostly against quality bowling attacks. Indian cricket owes a lot to Sourav Ganguly ,who had the vision to think about Viru as an opener and got him to open in England in challenging conditions. An 80 and a 100 was all that Sehwag needed in that series to launch himself as one of the greatest opening batsmen in test cricket. When Sehwag was in the mood, his batting partner goes totally unnoticed ,even if he happens to be the great Tendulkar batting with him . Moreover Sehwag at his peak successfully faced some of the fastest bowlers World produced in Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee and Dale Steyn. His fast scoring ability used to give lots of time to his bowlers to bowl out opposition twice. He got his runs in most overseas conditions and in subcontinent he was murderous and extremely successful. Averaging over 50 as an opener with 8000 plus test runs in 9 years at a mindboggling 82 strike rate , Sehwag showed that ,one does not need to crib too much with technique and short balls in order to be a successful opener. Backing his strengths with a chilled out mentality was the mantra for success of Virender Sehwag, but cannot be emulated easily.
Rohit finally got his chance to open in tests at 32. Hence he has only about 3 to 4 good years of international cricket left in him, so its needless to say that to emulate Sehwag’s achievements in such a short time is unthinkable. It will be putting too much of mental stress ,if Rohit is made to think about emulating Sehwag ,whose batting used to border on the unreal. Rohit should be allowed to take his time and let his own game bloom. He has a wide repertoire of strokes and sound temperament. He just needs to ease himself into this job , and get his runs in his own way. Experts who are trying to compare him to Sehwag are only putting added stress on him. Yes , Rohit does have a Sehwag like approach but both are different in their styles . Rohit’s quick scoring ability will give the captain more time to bowl out the opposition twice , now that India are currently blessed with an allround lethal bowling attack. Cricket will be well served if Rohit embraces the test openers job well and makes a good impression. History will take care of the rest as it did with Sehwag.