Sydney: After four years in waiting, Rohit Sharma could finally get a Test debut when India take on Australia in Perth. However, Aussie coach Mickey Arthur said it would be nothing short of baptism by fire for the youngster whose footwork is suspect on bouncy tracks.
India are down 0-2 in the four-match series after humiliating losses in Melbourne and Sydney and the axe could fall on an out-of-sorts Virat Kohli for the third Test in Perth starting January 13.
Arthur doubts Sharma would succeed on the fiery pitch of WACA, Perth and wonders if his backfoot play could stand up to the test.
"He has challenges on wickets which have bounce. WACA will have it and it's a test by furnace. He probably just would have to make sure he gets his backfoot game in order.
"I have seen a lot of him on television and how he copes if he gets the nod will be very interesting," he said.
Former Australia captain Ian Chappell echoed the opinion but felt the batsman should have been in the Indian team much earlier.
"Sharma should have been in the team a long time ago," said Chappell who is an admirer of the middle-order batsman and predicts 10,000 Test runs from his blade.
"Now it's hard for a batsman who hasn't had a hit for a couple of weeks. You bring him to Perth in conditions which are very difficult for experienced batsmen, never mind the inexperienced ones."
Chappell even went on to suggest that Sharma should get match practice by playing in some club match or grade cricket in Perth in order to get a grip on the conditions. Playing in the WACA square alongside the main pitch would also not be a bad idea, according to Chappell.
Chappell termed it a mistake on the part of the team management to prefer Kohli over Sharma in the first two Tests.
"I think Rohit Sharma should have been preferred. I have seen him taking on the Australians, playing the horizontal shots," he said.
Sharma has looked good in two practice matches the team has played at the start of the tour. In Canberra, he had scores of 56 not out, 47 and 38 not out. WACA or no WACA, he is determined to be ready whenever he gets the nod for the playing eleven.
"I don't want to be seen as someone who wasn't prepared when he got the chance. Trevor (Penny) and Duncan (Fletcher) and a few other senior players are helping me out. I know Test matches are completely different and I want to be completely ready when the moment comes," Sharma has said.
Sharma admits there is room for improvement in his game and that there are areas he's been working on.
"There is always scope for improvement. There are some areas we are working upon."
Kohli, meanwhile, has very little chance to make the team for the third Test in Perth after a mere 43 runs in the first two Tests at 10.75.
Sharma's backfoot play could have points in defence as well as in argument. He made an eye-catching 50 on a difficult wicket at Kingsmead, Durban during the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup.
But he also had his finger broken by a lifting delivery from Stuart Broad in a one-dayer at Chester-le-Street last summer.
Lack of consistency has also been held against the middle-order batsman, who has been in and out of the national team and failed to get the nod for the 2011 World Cup.
It hurt him "very, very deeply" and he worked extremely hard on his cricket and outlook in general and was rewarded with a berth in the team to the Caribbean in May last year.
The new Sharma now looks a complete package. His range of strokes has been breathtaking as has been his consistency. His last two full series of 10 matches have yielded him six half centuries and averages of 128.50 and 76.25.
Sharma has been helped by none other than Sachin Tendulkar, who was also spotted giving him poniters in the indoor nets at the MCG last week.
Tendulkar pointed out to Sharma that the back swing of his bat comes from second slip and he doesn't appear to have the "rocking cradle" stance - where wrists are closer to his stomach while waiting for the ball.