Rohit Sharma’s overseas Test credentials will not be put under the microscope for now in New Zealand, with the India opener’s calf injury sidelining him for a lengthy spell.
While Rohit’s untimely injury will be a major setback for India, especially in the upcoming ODI series, his unavailability has means that young Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill get the chance to fight it out for the opening berth in the Test clashes.
Eyebrows were raised on Monday when India’s selectors announced Shaw as Rohit’s replacement in the squad for the two-match Test series. With KL Rahul showing serious form in the limited-overs formats of late, many expected the Karnataka man to get a Test recall in light of Rohit’s injury.
While it might not exactly have been a popular decision to overlook Rahul for the Test spot, the call by India’s selectors seems to be the right one. Rahul might be in blistering form in white-ball cricket, but it would be foolish to expect him to replicate the same in the Test format instantly, particularly in New Zealand conditions.
It is easy to forget that the 27-year-old was struggling against the red-ball before he was eventually dropped from the squad last year. In his last 27 innings in the Test format, Rahul has managed just 578 runs at a measly average of 22.23.
The right-hander was a walking wicket on the overseas tours of South Africa, England, Australia and the West Indies, and it would be asking too much of him to overturn that poor form despite his purple patch in T20Is.
With the T20 World Cup coming later this year, India will want Rahul to maintain his impressive run of late. There is every possibility that a poor showing in the Test format could have a knock-on effect on his confidence and limited-overs form. That is not something India will want to tinker with at the moment.
On the other hand, both Shaw and Gill are fully deserving of their chance in the Test squad. Both the U19 World Cup winners have been heralded as the next batting sensations of the country and have been putting in strong red-ball performances to warrant a shot.
Shaw’s start to life in Test cricket was sensational with the Mumbai youngster slamming a century on debut against the West Indies in 2018. Unfortunately, injuries and a subsequent ban for a doping violation curtailed his hopes of building on that impressive debut series.
The 20-year-old has made a superb return to competitive cricket since his ban was lifted, and starred in a recent Ranji Trophy clash against Baroda with scores of 202 and 66. His form in limited-overs cricket has been equally prolific, with the right-hander registering a fine 150 for India A last month in their shadow tour of New Zealand.
Gill’s form, meanwhile, has been equally eye-catching with the 20-year-old producing sterling displays for India A against their New Zealand counterparts. The Punjab youngster is yet to make his Test debut, but is completely deserving of one after his knocks of 204 and 83 against New Zealand A in the recent four-day clash in Christchurch.
It makes sense to reward either of Shaw or Gill with a chance in the Test series against the Kiwis, particularly given the fact that Rahul has not played any first-class or red-ball cricket since August last year.
Both Shaw and Gill have had to wait for their opportunity, for various reason, but there is no doubting their talents and vast potentials. Rahul is fast turning into India’s star man in limited-overs cricket, and it would be best for him to stick with his strengths until the T20 World Cup at least.
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