For the last couple of years while analyzing the younger crop of players, I have always held the view that Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are the two best bets for the future. They are the front runners to take over when the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman ride off into the sunset. The way to the Test ranks is via limited overs cricket and I am pleased to note that both Kohli and Rohit have made considerable progress. Kohli made his way to the World Cup squad, performed admirably and is now a certainty in the ODI side. Rohit was perhaps a bit unfortunate not to make the cut but he too is more or less a cert in the limited overs squad. If proof was needed of his class it was provided during the ODI series against West Indies. Even with the return of the established stars it will be difficult to keep Rohit out of the playing eleven. His overall figures may not compare with those of Sehwag, Yuvraj, Kohli and Gambhir but in Rohit's case it is a case of potential far outweighing performance. In racing parlance he is a stayer and not a sprinter.
As Ian Chappell observed recently when he first saw Rohit play ODIs in Australia in 2008 he concluded that he was the best of the young Indian batsmen. "It's hard to fathom that three years later he still hasn't played a Test and his talent is in danger of being under-utilized," observed the former Australian captain. Chappell is not given to hyperbole and for him to predict a "huge future" for Rohit is quite something.
But then in some prodigiously talented youngsters it is not the scores but the approach to batting that is the subject of discussion and it is here that Rohit has come up trumps. Anyone who sees Rohit make 30 or 40 is immediately aware of the fact that he is watching a player of uncommon gifts - a player who combines substance with style. Even in slam bang cricket his batting is an ideal blend of the solid and the spectacular. There is a place for defence, for circumspection even in ODIs and Rohit displays impeccable technique. His strokes can be straight from the textbook or of the innovative variety. For one so young he has shown remarkable control and confidence in his batting approach.
In the just concluded ODI series against West Indies Rohit shrugged off the crisis situations time and again remaining cool, calm and unhurried. He adopted a methodical approach, farmed the strike adroitly and took upon the responsibility of playing the anchor role to perfection. Not once, but twice he steered India through a critical situation to victory and added a third half century in the final game. Such feats can only be performed by a young cricketer with a mature head on his shoulders.
The point to note is that however commendable Rohit's credentials are in limited overs cricket is he more perfectly cut out for the game's traditional format? These days of course you have to be successful in all formats of the game but some players are so classical in their stroke play, so correct in their approach and so water tight in their technique that they seem tailor made for Test cricket. However impressive the ODI records of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman are their names will indissolubly be linked more with Test cricket.
Is Rohit made the same way? After all the fact remains that he has a first class average of almost 61 with ten centuries in 43 matches, an unbeaten triple century and the feat of a century in each innings in a Ranji Trophy, something that only four players have achieved before him and one of them is Sachin Tendulkar. Rohit is the latest graduate from the Bombay school of batting which is based on big scores and an insatiable appetite for runs. So is he more a specialist Test batsman with his technical excellence, his text book driving and cutting, his chiseled stroke play, the ideal temperament for the longer version of the game along with his natural qualities of dedication, determination and concentration? Perhaps the longer version is where Rohit's destiny towards greatness lies and the sooner he is given the break the better.
In the meantime Rohit will continue to notch up many more valuable scores in limited overs cricket before he makes the inevitable transition to the Test arena. He is not one to rest on his laurels. But as I said more than the runs it will continue to be his batting style that will garner particular attention.