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India v Australia 2023

Back in Nagpur, Rohit Sharma is set out to establish his legacy as Indian Test captain

An important Test series against Australia awaits Rohit Sharma
by Shashwat Kumar 4 minute read

In 2010, Rohit Sharma was in line to make his Test debut against South Africa in Nagpur, only for injury to rule him out at the last moment. Now he is back in the same city, embarking on a defining period as India’s Test captain, writes Shashwat Kumar.

It has been a little under a year since Rohit was handed the reins of the India Test side. Unfortunately, a string of injuries has reduced his appearances to barely intermittent. He has led India only twice in the longest format, both in a home series win against Sri Lanka last March, and missed one in England and two in Bangladesh.

In a country like India, where captains are almost always evaluated with predecessors as yardsticks, this sample space is barely enough to gauge.


After a stop-start beginning, a defining few months lie in wait for Rohit, both as captain and as batter, and it starts with the first Test match against Australia, at Nagpur. Australia are touring India for a Test series for the first time since 2016/17. They did well last year, winning two out of five Test matches in Asia and losing one.

A few of their players have some personal incentive too. Marnus Labuschagne has scored runs for fun in Australia but averages a tick under 40 away from home, a significant downgrade on his overall career average of 59.43. Steve Smith, India’s kryptonite over the years, has found his range again after a brief barren spell, and is set to dominate on tricky, turning tracks. David Warner, meanwhile, has not set the Test stage alight in India. With this possibly being his last Test series in the country, he has a score to settle.

Australia may still wilt under pressure, considering how indomitable India are at home. But at this point, before a ball has been bowled, the consensus leans towards a keenly contested Test series.

At this point, Rohit is looking for that watershed moment as Test captain. Despite the ripples England are creating in the Test ecosystem with their aggressive batting, Australia are perhaps best equipped to challenge India on these shores. If Australia indeed return from India with their head high, the knives will be out, arguing whether Rohit is the right man to take India forward in Test cricket.

A resounding series win, coupled with another prospective and unprecedented triumph against the same opposition in the World Test Championship final, on the other hand, will propel him to a pedestal that very few have attained in Indian cricket. It will also mean that India Men will finally lift an ICC trophy – something Virat Kohli’s hands so yearned for during the latter’s tenure.

This, of course, is not another Rohit v Kohli captaincy debate. Indian cricket can do without that discussion for now. But look closely, and the next few months, even if they might not properly indicate how good or bad Rohit is as captain, could define how people remember Rohit the Test captain.

Rohit has not played a Test since last March but before that, in England in 2021, he was comfortably India’s best batter, and was equally impressive when England had toured India earlier that year. This is a crucial phase in the career of Rohit the Test batter, who would want to reaffirm his credentials and add one of the final few chapters in his storied cricketing chronicle.

That this series is on home soil, where Rohit has the fourth-highest batting average of all time (with a 1,000-run cut-off), provides him the perfect platform to remind people how good he is.

Funnily enough, all those years ago, Rohit’s story almost began at this very stadium in Nagpur. He had to wait three years to earn his Test cap as several, including Kohli, surged ahead of him in the batting pecking order. Now, at 35, with question marks over form and fitness, he does not have that luxury of time. In light of the injuries he has picked up lately, it remains to be seen how long he can prolong his Test career and how much an impact he can still have in the longest format – as a captain and as a batter.

So, this is it.

That he is back in Nagpur – the city where he was born, where he has a Test hundred and an ODI hundred, and produced a whirlwind knock on his most recent international outing, only adds to the spectacle. It also makes you wonder how cricket, or sport for that matter, unerringly keeps brewing up these pertinent narratives.

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