'My Test spot in tricky position' - Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma has some unfinished business with Sri Lanka. Not the team but the country. He might have broken all records while scoring that 264 in an ODI against them, but the country itself has not been a happy hunting ground for him. The last time he went there for a bilateral series, in 2012, he returned ODI scores of 5, 0, 0, 4, 4. By some warped logic, Rohit, the next in line for Test debut until then, actually lost those rights to Suresh Raina for the upcoming home season. When he later went to Sri Lanka for the World Twenty20, he managed to face just 63 balls in four innings as India failed to make the semi-finals.
Now Rohit goes across the Palk Strait with his Test spot precariously placed. Ever since the two centuries he scored in his debut series, at home against West Indies, he has passed 50 only twice in 17 innings, with a best of 72. Also, whenever India played five bowlers, Rohit was the batsman who sat out: and the numbers suggest he didn't have much to complain about. Then, during the last two Tests that India have played, under new captain Virat Kohli, Rohit has been preferred to Cheteshwar Pujara, and has batted at No. 3, for scores of 53, 39 and 6. That's neither here nor there, and it might well mean he might start in a five-batsmen set-up come August 12 in Galle, but he knows he needs big runs if he is to maintain that spot.
"It is very priceless," Rohit told bcci.tv about his spot in the Test side. "It is very close to me. I don't want to let go of it so easily. It's not just me. Any cricketer you ask nobody wants to lose that spot. You know how hard you had to work for that spot. For me it was never easy. Let's make it very clear. I had to wait for five-six years before making my debut. I was scoring pretty heavily in Ranji Trophy. Because we had such a strong middle order at that time, it wasn't easy. We knew we had to wait.
"Now, you know, I stand in a position where it's in a very tricky position. I definitely want to do well every Test match I play. But knowing how Test matches are played these days, it's not easy. In fact it was never easy. Test cricket. It is a challenge, and I love challenges."
Rohit knows the frustration of being left out of the Test set-up only too well. Before he lost that chance in 2012, he had been set to make his debut, against South Africa in Nagpur in February 2010, but injured himself doing warm-ups minutes before the toss. "Honestly, during that period when I didn't play any Test cricket it was quite frustrating," Rohit said. "Knowing that I was going to make Test debut in 2010, and I got injured, and had to wait three years for it. It's not easy.
"To work hard for that Test cap… I was quite happy with whatever I was doing. I was working hard, I was happy, I was still playing ODIs, but Test cricket is something I wanted to play. Certain things are not in your hands. You can't do much about it. I had to only wait. But it was worth waiting for those four years. It was good to get a century on your debut, but after my debut it has not been such a great time. I am still working hard, I am still learning, and it was a good experience to play Test cricket outside India."
Had Rohit made his debut back when he was first supposed to, he would have had the privilege of being part of a No. 1 Test side, albeit not for too long. He wants to experience it for himself. "I wasn't a part of the Test team when we became No. 1," Rohit said. "So that's a goal, to be part of the Test team where we become No. 1 in Test rankings. That's my aim, to bring India back to No. 1. I know it's not going to be easy, but we have the squad, we have got the guys to do it so I don't see any reason why we can't do it."
Rohit knows there is going to be competition for that privilege even if India do rise dramatically in the rankings. India are scheduled to play a lot of Test cricket in Asia over the next two seasons, and that means a five-bowler combination, which leaves little breathing spot for Rohit as a batsman. "When it comes to competition, it is always good to be in that zone," he said. "You always want to be competing for whatever you do. Just not for the spot, but even when you cement your place, you want to keep competing against the best in the world. I don't take it as pressure. I always enjoy competition, I have always loved it.
"At the end of the day what you do on the field is what matters. When you get an opportunity you have to make the most of it. You are the person in charge, you are the person responsible for what you make of it. It is in your hand what you do. You have all the opportunity. You just have to grab it. How you do it is up to you."