Rohit Sharma chose the day of 20th October to post his 1st ever 200 in Test cricket at Ranchi and that too in his new role as an opener and whats more scored his 200th run in the same way as his 100th run–with a six and this time off an imperious pull shot off Ngidi— all happening on the birthday of India’s all time greatest aggressive opener Virender Sehwag.(who himself loved reaching big landmarks with sixes). Whether that pulled six on 199 was a silent birthday gift to Sehwag is not known but what we all know now is that Rohit Sharma has come to stay as India’s main opening batsman for the near future. We had published a blog in this very website a year ago on the requirement and importance of playing Rohit as an opener in tests when our opening slot was having issues. Then came his brilliant ODI World cup run of 5 hundreds in English conditions as an opener and the backroom discussions of playing him as opener in tests had already started. Rahul again failed in the West Indies and finally Rohit got his chance in this home series. Rohit Sharma is now the first Indian opener since Sunil Gavaskar to have hit 3 centuries in a test series. A great achievement considering that he is not an original opener, being catapulted as one from a middleorder slot which is another similarity with Virender Sehwag’s career.
176, 127, 14, 212 – Rohit Sharma’s sequence of scores in this India South Africa Test series 2019 till date and his latest knock was the best of the lot. India was in a crisis early on 1st day at 39/3 when Rohit and Rahane joined hands. Rohit was very watchful at the start in keeping with his recent batting trend. He grinded out during the difficult phase when the South African fast bowlers looked threatening and were poised to make further inroads .It was old fashioned test match batting at it’s best. Rahane settled down quickly and was striking the ball well scoring at good pace while Rohit remained watchful and put a high price on his wicket , a trend with him in recent times. His watchfulness was punctuated with glorious strokeplay from time to time as he reached his 100 with a six and was ruthless against the spinners. On 2nd day starting at 117 Rohit stepped up his scoring with dazzling strokeplay which included imperious pull shots off fast bowlers . While Rahane got dismissed soon after his sparkling 115 , his 1st 100 at home in 3 years , Rohit carried on remorselessly and completed his 200 with a screaming pull shot off Ngidi followed by another soon after till Rabada had him caught off his 3rd attempted pull for 212 when he was looking well poised for 300. With cameos from Jadeja (51) , Saha (24) and 5 blistering sixes by Umesh Yadav (31 off 19 balls) India finally declared at 497/ 9. Soon the South African openers Elgar and Decock were knocked over by searing deliveries from Shami and Umesh to leave the Proteas reeling at 9/2 when bad light stopped play for the day.
However the hero of the day remained Rohit Sharma for his double ton . He now has amassed 529 runs in this series and is batting at his best in test cricket. Putting a huge price on his wicket ,something which he lacked in the past, Rohit seems to be making up for lost time in 5 day format. 27 to 33 are normally the peak years for a batsman and Rohit is now 32 and playing the best cricket of his life. There have been lots of examples in world cricket where batsmen started to flower late in their careers after reaching 32. Mohinder Amarnath and Graham Gooch are two players who come to mind straightaway. Both these stars played their best cricket starting from their mid thirties virtually.Gooch was still scoring mighty 100s in his early 40s. Hence if he keeps his fitness as one of his priorities, Rohit Sharma should be able to keep on performing even in his late thirties as age does not matter if a player is fit and performing. There was a lot of talk in media by experts about giving chances to younger openers and that it was a backward step to put Rohit as an opener to accomodate him in the team. All those comments and reservations are now put to rest by Rohit himself with his stellar show and weight of runs . His next challenge is to replicate his subcontinent form in overseas conditions of which England , New Zealand and South African conditions can challenge him. He has already worked on finetuning his technique to perform as an opener and it is already paying dividends. Indian cricket fans and experts will surely follow Rohit’s test career as opener very closely from now on.