The only vacant slot in the middle-order in the Indian Test team is the No. 6 position. Will it be Yuvraj Singh or Suresh Raina? Or Manoj Tiwary? Or will S Badrinath finally get his chance? Till sometime back, Rohit Sharma's name would have been mentioned in that list, but he has fallen behind in the race somewhat.
With the Ranji Trophy starting from Friday (November 2) though, Rohit would be expected to score big for Mumbai and stake his claim too. It is, after all, a long season, and opportunities might crop up for the ones that deserve them. "It's the start of the season, so it's important for everyone, not just me," said Rohit at the Wankhede Stadium a day before Mumbai's Ranji opener against Railways. "I need to be positive, which I am. I am in a good frame of mind and preparing well."
In the past too, Rohit has talked often about desiring a chance to represent India in Test matches. His stock has dipped of late, but Rohit's target hasn't changed. "It's correct that I really want a Test cap," he said. "I have always worked towards that and continue to do so. Not everything is in my hands, so I focus on the things I can do. Now (in the Ranji Trophy), I will try to go out and score as many runs as possible, and then it is up to the selectors."
Being part of the Mumbai Ranji team this year is a more exciting deal than it usually is, because Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan are part of the set-up - at least to begin with. And, as always with up-and-coming batsmen, time spent with Tendulkar is a prospect worth waiting for.
"I have been with him (Tendulkar) the last three days like I have been when part of the Mumbai Indians team," said Rohit. "He comes and talks to me whenever he thinks something about my batting needs to be corrected. So we often have chats on how I can improve my cricket. It's a boost for the guys in the team to have Sachin and Zak around. There's always an opportunity to learn something new."
For Rohit, the runs appear to have dried up - whether in One-Day Internationals or in Twenty20 Internationals, for India or for Mumbai Indians - he totalled just 117 from five matches in the Champions League Twenty20 recently. His position in the Indian limited-overs teams has also been under scrutiny following a run of average performances with the bat over the past year. As a result, he isn't quite sure whether he will spend any time with the Indian team in the near future.
"It's been like this for two to three years now so I am used to it," he said. "You are either in the Indian team or you are playing Ranji Trophy. You get used to it. But wherever you play, it's important to keep doing well and keep scoring runs. You need to be prepared at all times. Look at Ajinkya (Rahane) - he is playing for India A today, but he will play for Mumbai tomorrow. You need to be prepared at all times."