India v West Indies, 3rd ODI, Ahmedabad December 4, 2011

Kohli, Rohit in race for No. 6 Test spot

India will take heart from seeing both candidates for the only open spot in the Test line-up for the Australia tour, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, in form and scoring not soft but difficult, mature runs

It must have frustrated India to watch the last two West Indies wickets add 120 runs in Visakhapatnam. It will be a matter of concern that their regulation openers, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, are yet to play definitive innings post the World Cup. At the same time, all that added up to create a situation conducive to a satisfactory development. Stand-in captain Sewhag liked what he saw after his dismissal. "They both batted with lot of maturity, as if they have played 200 matches between them, although they have only played around 60-70 matches," Sehwag said, the "both" in this case being Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.

India must hope their good form has implications beyond a jailbreak in yet another ODI, their eighth against West Indies this year, with three more to go. Looking at the larger picture, India will take heart from seeing both candidates for the only open spot in the Test line-up for the Australia tour in form, scoring not soft but difficult, mature runs. Especially because that spot has been open ever since Sourav Ganguly's retirement three years ago.

There are two ways of looking at Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma's lack of Test experience, despite their success in one-dayers. You could say they are being given a protected induction: all of Kohli's first four Tests have been against West Indies, and Rohit is yet to debut. Or you could say there's not enough faith in them on display: the closest Rohit has come to a Test debut was when he injured himself on the morning of the Nagpur Test against South Africa in February 2010, after having been called in as a last-minute replacement for VVS Laxman, and Kohli wasn't given a chance to play on the tough tour of England.

Later this month, these points of view will be put to rest. Never mind that Australia are not the same team anymore and that they lost the last home Ashes 3-1, Australia remains a tough place to tour, and the pivotal No. 6 position is begging to be taken. This is not against lesser opposition, not in friendly conditions, nor a last-minute-replacement act. The talented duo has been given - or rather, earned - the vote of confidence that Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh were given when India went to England earlier this year. That the spot remains untaken is one of the many reasons why India failed there.

The conditions will be easier than in England, in that the ball won't seam as much as it did during the England summer, but there will be extra bounce to handle. That they are doing well in the series leading up to the Australia tour will add to the confidence. Rohit Sharma has bailed India out twice, Kohli once, in the current ODI series that is two-matches-old. Sehwag likes the mindset it will create in both of them. "I am pretty happy with their performance," he said. "Especially with that of Rohit Sharma. Yesterday [the eve of the Visakhapatnam match] he had promised that he would finish the game for us, and he did just that. Virat Kohli also batted superbly.

"It's important for everyone, whoever is going to Australia, to take in confidence and play well there. It's a big challenge in Australia. I am sure they will handle the pressure well. They will practice hard and get used to bounce and play well there."

No. 6 is an unglamorous spot. If the team is doing well, you have to hit out in a push for a declaration. If the team is doing badly, you find yourself stuck with the tail. Kohli had that experience in the final Test against West Indies. Rohit has had that experience on more than one occasion, especially in ODIs against West Indies. This series is not strictly preparation for Australia: the ball colour will change, the pitches will change, the bowlers will change, but as Sehwag says, the confidence won't hurt.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • marq7 on December 7, 2011, 2:02 GMT

    2 talented players no doubt. Given enough matches they can become as good as any player out there. But all of this chatter reminds me of the pre-England tour earlier this year. Come post Boxing Day, we shall know. Australia is a tough place to be initiated.

  • dummy4fb on December 6, 2011, 9:12 GMT

    i can say rohit is a over hyped player in current cricket world. commentators like ravi and gav are the seriously mind washing the world with their comments on rohit. May be he came from where the bla bla's came. you got it right? Don't you?

  • dummy4fb on December 6, 2011, 6:01 GMT

    In terms of talent there is Rohit Sharma, daylight and then Yuvaraj, Raina and Virat. Even Sachin scroed his first Century after 70+ matches. Stick with Rohit, this guy has all the attributes to make it big, REAL BIG.

  • Sudhakar86 on December 6, 2011, 4:35 GMT

    @all Not many people have the guts to be off the mark with a six. Rohit has done it twice in consecutive matches. Anyone can come n score runs at the top in ODIs but at no 5&6 it is really hard to score runs as your shot selection is extremely important. Rohit has done it 3 in a row. What else qualification is needed for tests?

  • Sudhakar86 on December 6, 2011, 4:28 GMT

    @SamRoy What did Kohli do when he was in WI. He played so badly yet he got a chance to play in tests. Rohit was in Good form yet he was denied a spot which was vaccant without senior players. In South Africa even Sachin failed wherass in 2003 Sachin dominated. A class player will see many ups n downs. I would say that he is the one who keeps the team ahead pf personal landmarks apart from Yuvi. Even RD at times plays for his own but never those two guys

  • Kangroos.Proteas.Monkeys.Lions on December 6, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    Again there are too much expectations from this series. We all know england whitewash unveiled itself after a series against WI. The same is happening now. These youngsters have done well in the backyard as usual and visitors have given them a very tough time so far. Off course the mood is different as Ashwin's attitude after getting out last night was different. He advised the new comer like a frontline batsman. Rohit is in good form but got out in nineties. Kohli is good and both of these guys deserve to face Aussies. In the first two ODIs of this series Indian bowling lineup could not get em out before 50 overs. Both teams are missing few important players and will be raring to make more impression agaist stronger team. Specially, WI have done well against India and Bangladesh.

  • dummy4fb on December 6, 2011, 3:47 GMT

    Kohli will be my test # 6/later # 5... he does not have enough technique for #3.... and Rohit will fill the shoes of # 3/4 whenever it's vacant.....

    Till then, they can rotate Kohli and Sharma for that #6 spot... say if it's a 4 test series, Kohli gets 2 tests and Rohit gets 2 tests in that #6 spot.... let them choose which tests they want to play..... unless one of them is out of form.... because both deserve the test cap, but only one spot is vacant now.....

  • dummy4fb on December 6, 2011, 3:44 GMT

    Rohit reminds me of Mark Waugh; Especially those on drives, flicks and drives...... languid...... Kohli, especially when he pulls has a touch of Ponting in him... (his attitude also!) :)

    Kohli will be my # 6... he does not have enough technique for #3.... and Rohit will fill the shoes of # 3/4 when it's vacant.....

  • pk_brisbane on December 6, 2011, 1:03 GMT

    @criketanand - you obviously dont know much abt cricket. both their attitudes are an example for all youngsters on the field. they hustle, are energetic and are consistent. you say their technique is poor, on what grounds have you said that, they have good footwork, good balance and a good eye. will they fail in aus? maybe, but thats part of their learning curve that will make they world beaters in years to come. they have earnt the right to be on that tour. as for your inference of attitude, if your referring to things off the field, who cares. dont be a hater, support the youngsters.

  • dummy4fb on December 6, 2011, 0:34 GMT

    Indians depend too much on past RECORDS. Please forget about individual performances and records. Raina Rohit Sharna, Purja, Kohli are talented Raina and Kohli shd be in any Indian Team at present. Australian young fast bowlers are doing well. Australians do not play any passengers in the field. Vijay did very well against Australia at home he is a better bat than Gautam at present and a good fielder. No bad fielder can get into an Australian side. Compare the Average age of the Australians and Indians. Raina,Kohli and Rohit should be in any side as they save plenty of runs and rarely drop a catch. Vijay scored and ran out two good batters against Australia.

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