Rohit Sharma, in sublime ODI form of late, slammed a century (127*) on Test debut to prove that he is going to part of Team India in the longer format of the game as well. Rohit scored a brilliant century to fashion India's fightback on Day 2 of the Eden Gardens Test after the hosts were reduced to 83 for five by Caribbean off-spinner Shane Shillingford. Rohit became the 14th Indian to score a century on debut and joined an exclusive club that has former skippers Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Mohammed Azharuddin among other top batsmen. (Day 2 report)
On Thursday, Rohit showed the right temperament, excellent technique and exquisite touch to score his runs. His 198-run seventh-wicket stand with Ravichandran Ashwin (70) helped India get past West Indies' first innings score of 234. Rohit laced his century with 16 fours and a six. But it was his 228-ball stay and the ability to hold the innings together under pressure that made his innings extremely valuable.
The 26-year-old - handed his Test cap by Sachin Tendulkar on Wednesday - came in at a time when the hosts had lost five wickets. Shillingford's spin was posing a serious threat and Indian batsmen had no answers. All except Rohit. The Player of the Series in the recently-concluded India versus Australia seven-match ODI series, Rohit brilliantly adjusted to Test cricket. (Pictures)
Just five days ago, Rohit struck 209 off 158 deliveries but on Thursday, he was in no rush to score. The Mumbai batsman partnered his skipper MS Dhoni (42) and lent him with the support needed to stage a rescue-act. Dhoni's eventual dismissal, however, saw Rohit take over the role of sheet anchor. Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly was simply excited to see this transformation. "Rohit has been phenomenal in last six months and has transferred his ODI form into Tests. Rohit along with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are the core of Indian batting future," Ganguly said.
While Pujara, Kohli and Rahane made their Test debuts, Rohit came within touching distance of a white jersey when Rahul Dravid injured himself before a Test series versus South Africa three years back. An ankle injury before toss at the VCA Stadium, Nagpur however ensured a cruel joke on Sharma and his Test dreams. Form too was unkind with Sharma's ODI average plummeting to 31 after a 2012 series in Sri Lanka in 2012. Calls for his omission from the squad gained momentum but selectors and skipper Dhoni persisted - patience paying rich dividends a year later.
The run-drought ended with the batsman shining in Champions Trophy (second highest Indian and fourth highest overall scorer) and the tour to West Indies (second highest scorer with two fifties in five innings) - runs erasing memories of a topsy-turvy cricketing past. This combined with stellar knocks in Indian Premier League where he captains Mumbai Indians, brought Rohit to the fore. "I want to play Test cricket because there is where the true strength of a batsman is," maintained Rohit.
Thursday's Test knock will only propel him to the stature of a responsible, supremely talented world-class batsman -one that even made Australia skipper George Bailey reckon that Rohit has the best chance of filling Tendulkar's shoes. And while this may be a huge void to fill, Rohit is surely on the right track.