Rohit Sharma's next challenge - Succeeding as a Test opener
Rohit Sharma is known for his humongous success in the limited-overs cricket. However, it's not something he has achieved overnight as he has gone through various struggles and a fair amount of criticism to reach such height in white-ball cricket.
Yes, Rohit Sharma was initially termed as a lazy right-hander who threw away lots of opportunities in the early part of his career. One decision from former Indian captain MS Dhoni changed Rohit's career graph.
Dhoni asked Rohit Sharma to open the innings during the 2013 Champions Trophy and since then there has been no looking back for the Mumbai based right-handed batsman. He went on to become the first Indian to smash two double centuries and the first cricketer in the world to smash three double centuries in ODI cricket history.
The Hitman, arguably, has been the second-best batsman in ODIs (after Virat Kohli) for the last three years. The ICC ODI ranking also reflects the same. He brought that same form into T20I matches and scored four centuries - the most in T20I history.
Sharma, however, has not tasted similar kind of success in the longer version of the game.
Since his debut he has been in and out of the team due to various reasons. It's safe to say that his Test career is not a patch on his illustrious limited-overs legacy.
The Mumbai Indians captain has batted mostly at number five or six and scored only three centuries in 27 Tests. Many cricket experts were suggesting that India should try him as an opener in Tests. They also stated an example of what happened when Sourav Ganguly decided to send Virender Sehwag as a Test opener.
The selectors, however, were looking for the right opportunity to make such a big decision.
KL Rahul, who showed promise initially, has regressed massively and has deservedly been dropped. Prithvi Shaw is suspended to drug violation. India's search for a new opener, thus, has led them to the Hitman, who will be opening in the Test series against the visiting Proteas.
It's a great opportunity for Sharma to establish himself in Test cricket. One good thing is that he will be playing the next three Tests at home which negates his worries with the moving ball. If Sharma manages to get through the first hour, he can make huge scores in the upcoming series.
It is imperative that Sharma plays his natural free-scoring game to make an impression. Playing conservatively will not be of use to him or Team India.
Even if the Hitman performs well against South Africa his main challenge would be a tour of England. But, he does not have to think about that now as his first agenda would be to shine as an opener in the next three Tests.
Cover image credits: IANS