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World Test Championship

How Rohit Sharma jumped the pecking order to play Test cricket as an opener

Rohit Sharma Test recall backstory
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Rohit Sharma has the joint-second-most hundreds in the World Test Championship and the best batting average among Indians (min 10 innings) in the WTC, but his Test recall was a contentious decision two years ago.

Rohit’s Test career could easily be divided into two halves — one as a stop-start middle-order batsman, whose potential was evident for all to see, yet the returns never quite came, and the other as a Test opener, a recall that was hugely debatable considering his previous trysts with the format.

As a middle-order batsman, Rohit averaged 39.62 after kickstarting his journey with back-to-back hundreds against the West Indies in 2013. Since his recall as Test opener, Rohit averages 64.37 in the format with a best of 212.

After a stunning Test debut, things started going downhill once he started playing outside India. In 18 Tests away from home between 2013 and 2018, as a middle-order batsman, Rohit averaged just 26.32. As such, his recall in 2019 was hugely debated.

In a recent interview with Cricbuzz, India’s chairman of selectors at the time, MSK Prasad, revealed why Rohit was given a Test recall, one that could easily be categorized as a second lease of life in his career.

“In the last 3-4 his [Rohit’s] performances in white-ball cricket was legendary, no two ways about it,” Prasad said. “When someone gets five centuries in England in an ODI World Cup, you have to stand up and notice. So how did his inclusion happen? We played Prithvi Shaw, he started brilliant but then his fitness dipped, his form dipped and for whatever reason, he was out of the side. Mayank was there but there was a concern over the second opener and with Prithvi’s inconsistencies, we wanted to go with someone reliable and someone experienced.”

“If someone is getting five centuries in England, of course it is white ball but he has tightened his technique. After the World Cup, we sat down with Virat and Ravi in England to discuss how we could bring him to the side. Unfortunately, Priyank Panchal and AR Easwaran had a little tough season. Considering all this we thought we needed one solid guy with experience.”

“Given his performance in white ball cricket, we thought why can’t we try him. We debated a lot. I personally spoke to Rohit. He was more than happy to take up the challenge. He was prepared for that challenge. We gave him a chance in the Board Presidents XI against South Africa. He started with a zero but once the Test series began his experience took over and he had a phenomenal start and never looked back.”

Rohit is now an integral part of the Test side, and while his performances in Australia weren’t superlative, there is enough evidence to suggest Rohit’s second-coming is here to stay for a long while.

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