The marquee clash is just 5 days away. A strong-looking and determined Indian team will clash against a vulnerable but always a fighting Australian side in Melbourne. It has been a few days since India has arrived, but MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher have been put in a spot on several issues. And one of them is the selection of the No.6 batsman for the side, come Boxing Day.
At the start of the West Indies series a month back, there were as many as four contenders for this slot which was famously vacated by Sourav Ganguly way back in October 2008. Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. Suresh Raina seems to be a forgotten story despite a memorable Test century on debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo back in the summer of 2010. His differences with the short ball continue to exist, and those differences were highlighted strongly by England’s quickies in England this year. While Yuvraj Singh was on his way of making a comeback into the side after a fabulous World Cup earlier this year, it turns out that he suffers from a non-malignant tumour in his lung. As a result, he had a string of modest scores against a mediocre West Indies side recently and is unavailable to play in the Tests in Australia.
So finally it is down to two men. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. The Delhi boy’s exploits in international cricket till date are known well to almost every cricket fan. He has blossomed from being a whipping boy to one of the bulwarks of the Indian batting in ODIS. Out of his 8 ODI centuries so far, 7 of them have been in a winning cause for the team. As a result, he has been rewarded with Test appearances recently against West Indies and did not disappoint. He has spilled his good form in the second warm up match against the Chairmans XI in Canberra where he scored 132 against a bowling attack comprising of Doug Bollinger, Peter George and John Holland to name a few. What also strengthens his case is that he can play the short-pitched ball decently and that will be key on lively Australian pitches.
Rohit Sharma, on the other hand is a ‘wasted talent’ according to Ian Chappell. He is unfortunate not to have played Test cricket in his career so far, primarily due to the longevity of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman in the middle order. But he has been in his prime this year and finally has been rewarded with a golden opportunity to make his Test debut in the same country where he gained popularity as a ODI specialist the last time around. Duncan Fletcher has openly declared his confidence in Sharma and that has helped his cause big time. Although he can struggle against the short ball and the swinging delivery occasionally, yet he has been able to counter this weakness in both the practice games as he boasts of an average of 51.5 on the tour so far. Besides, his experience of playing in Australia with the national side in 2008 will come in handy for him to be selected for Melbourne unlike Kohli who also has played in the country, but for the U19 teams in India.
Although Virat Kohli does not consider Rohit Sharma as competition, yet this is called diplomacy since the side cannot afford to be disintegrated on this issue before a crucial Test series. Competition is healthy for this Indian team since it will be not long before the senior players finally call it a day. Someday, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma will feature together in the Test team but the time now is just not right. Perhaps, this will be the toughest decision to make for Dhoni, Fletcher and the team management in a while and rest assured that the decision will be a very bold one.