Why have India gone with Rohit Sharma at three?

I’ll start with an admission here: I’ve never rated Rohit Sharma as a Test cricketer. His ODI exploits, with two double centuries to his name, have seemingly cemented his reputation in short-form obsessed India. India, however, are on a Test assignment in Sri Lanka at the moment and Rohit has been moved to number three in the Test XI.

Rohit Sharma, a fine ODI player, doesn't look cut out for Test cricket - certainly not as a number three

Rohit Sharma, a fine ODI player, doesn’t look cut out for Test cricket – certainly not as a number three

This move makes absolutely no sense to me. Cheteshwar Pujara, after a glistening start to his Test career, has struggled during India’s most recent Test assignments, but is surely a far better option in the top order than Rohit.

The move reminds me of when Australia promoted Glenn Maxwell to number three in their batting order during their UAE tour in 2014. They lost 3-0 and Maxwell was an abject failure. It seems unlikely he will play Test cricket again.

I can only envisage the same for Rohit. Like Maxwell, he is a supremely talented cricketer. A supremely talented limited overs cricketer.

Rohit started India’s last Test tour, in Australia, batting at six for the first two Tests. He was dropped for the third Test, before being recalled in place of Pujara for the final Test. He mustered a half century at three and the Indian selectors have decided to stick with him.

It won’t be long until, like Maxwell, he’s out of the Test reckoning.

India, like everyone else at the moment, appear hell bent on playing attacking cricket. Virat Kohli, the new captain, is desperate to create a side that can compete away from home, something they singularly failed to do under MS Dhoni’s leadership.

Given his ODI exploits, Rohit certainly fits the bill as an attacking cricketer. But, with Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan opening and with Kohli himself coming in at four, there is plenty of firepower in the Indian batting line up. Having a batsman like Pujara at three would give them someone to build around in the event of early wickets falling, with the classy Ajinkya Rahane another potential pillar of strength at five.

Pujara is the closest thing India have to a replacement for Rahul Dravid.

India would be crazy to exclude Rohit from their ODI side, but I think they are also crazy in trying to force him into being a Test cricketer – and a top order one at that.

By Miles Reucroft

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