Kohli, Rohit in race for No. 6 Test spot
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