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Importance of Having Dashing Sharma at Five than Plodding Pujara at Three

August 24, 2016


Sometimes it is rather disappointing to see people being so much obsessed with numbers. They often point to rankings, career averages, centuries and more than anything else to an uncluttered state of cricketing run – “form”. But that’s how only the ordinary people think. It takes quite an ability to make things out of the latent ideas; which of course, not many can. That’s what separates Virat Kohli from most of the other test captains, as feels Rohit Sharma is no longer a just a limited over specialist, but a cavalier with inherent knack whose test cricket time has come.

While Kohli’s decision of replacing Pujara with Rohit to back the latter at number 5 and reshuffling the batting order was not welcome by everyone, I don’t see too much wrong with this. Wait, a word of caution – “Replacing Pujara with Rohit” can actually lead to a huge misinterpretation. Honestly speaking, Sharma can never be a replacement for Pujara who bats at number three. Though Pujara can open the innings, or say Kohli can move himself up the order, Rahane can bat anywhere he is asked to, even Ashwin can go above Saha and still score a hundred; but Rohit Sharma? Well, he is just a number five in tests.

Or may even be six. If many of us remind that he scored back to back hundreds in his first couple of innings since he was handed over the test cap. But these days, as captain Kohli is happy playing with 5 specialist bowlers as he wants to be aggressive right from the word go and play for results rather than wasting 5-days-time in cause of a draw; it would never be a great idea for India’s prime opening batsman in the limited overs to take guard after Saha or Ashwin. So it all comes down to the only choice left – number five.

Though here too a many might be saying that Ashwin do have a decent batting average in the longer version of the game compared to the slot he bats in, but I seriously do not take any interest to explain it to them that owning a higher average and more centuries after playing twice as many tests simply does not make any sense whatsoever. It simply doesn’t mean that he owns the technique and temperament of a specialist batsman what Rohit brings to the table.

One of the biggest sources of strength for Virat Kohli is the degree of transparency in his thinking. He knows exactly what he is doing or trying to do. What Kohli saw at once is Rohit’s ability to change a test match within a course of a single session. It is such a quality which can neither be quantified nor learnt. This is also something which draws a thick border line between Pujara who can sometimes (we saw against West indies) block the whole side into a hole and Sharma who simply blazes through the opponent bowlers with his freestyle delicacy to unsettle their rhythm. Of course, there will be people to question about Rohit’s consistency, but the captain knows that the man who can score two double hundreds in ODIs is just a knock away from finding his foothold at the test level. That knock might be taking a little longer than expected to come, but the day it comes, it can do wonders in the days ahead. We all remember how long it took Sachin Tendulkar to score his maiden ODI ton, but once he got that away, the centuries just kept coming as frequent as one would like! If the same happens here too, the same gang of people who are taking a dig at Kohli now will be hailing him then.

Pujara’s superior average compared to that of Hitman doesn’t come into play either, just as Ashwin’s average doesn’t quite frame together a consolidated logic. However that’s not because the number of games he played, but because of the way he is playing nowadays. In his peak the one who used to capitalize almost on every start he got, is now gifting his wicket after doing all the hard work. When you score 20 runs off the 100 balls you face, you are expected to go on, which has rarely been seen at the recent past with Pujara. If someone feels no issue with his technique as he is meeting the ball right under his eyes while playing a shot, most certainly I would like to ask him that why on earth there remains a gap of a foot between his bat and pad while offering a full-bladed block to a fifth stump ball? What’s bad is that he is not realizing this even after getting bowled through the gate on a numerous occasions. And perhaps what’s worse is that all these have set his average to a secular decline.

One thing Kohli guarantees as captain is aggression. He likes to be aggressive and wants all his teammates to be aggressive as well. Here with Pujara, it’s not difficult to find him in a spot of bother whenever he has to sprint for a single or turn for a couple, almost as if it’s an indication of age in action. On the other hand, despite being a year older, even if Rohit Sharma spills catches while fielding at forward short leg, he spills them with a personified youthfulness, rather than turning his back against the shot offered. Age is just a number in this sport till you play with the right attitude. It’s a matter of being young at forty. Those who are to turn old at twenty eight will not have any significant role to play under Captain Kohli.

  1. Abir Ray permalink

    In 4th test kohli played with 4 bowlers and 7 batsman.. including ashwin its 8 batsman. Bt rain washed away the whole match.. bt when vijay will be fit.. its very tough to fit rohit in playing 11 cz rahul is in great form.. but i really dnt knw why kohli dnt dropped dhawan?? Even dhoni also couldn’t in the past..

    • As Kohli has suggested, they have a plan to back Rohit at a particular position. Hence I can see Dhawan being dropped. At least the chances are there. I would rather prefer Rahane going at 3, Kohli at 4 and Rohit at 5 with Rahul and Vijay opening.

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