That Rohit Sharma had scored just one first-class century before Thursday - a sizeable 205 for Mumbai against Gujarat in December 2006 - and was still good enough to be part of the Test squad against Sri Lanka shows just how much faith Dilip Vengsarkar, then chairman of selectors, had in the 21-year-old.
Virat Kohli had played only 11 first-class matches when he made a match-winning 120 against New Zealand in the Emerging Players’ tournament in Australia, with Vengsarkar watching. That one knock was enough to propel him into the ODI team where he acquitted himself honourably in the five matches in Sri Lanka. Games like the one in progress against the visiting Australians are an ideal platform for aspiring players to stake a claim, and Thursday belonged to Sharma and Kohli.
The pair would have been happy to hear what the new chairman of selectors, K Srikkanth, had to say at the end of the day’s play. “It was quite impressive to watch these two youngsters play so well against the mighty Aussies,” said Srikkanth. “This proves we have great bench strength.” There have been enough conspiracy theories doing the rounds, but Srikkanth is one who understands the value of positive batting as much as performance in matches, if his selection of S Badrinath is anything to go by.
The two youngsters - Rohit (21) and Kohli (19), are very different players, but they both have big futures ahead of them if they can stay stable mentally and keep scoring in domestic cricket.
“Playing against the world champions and getting runs against them is a different feeling. It was an important innings for me. I am not bothered about what is happening with the selection,” said Sharma at the end of the day’s play. “My job is to go out there and keep doing well. I don’t want to get complacent, I want to get one more big score in the next innings as well.”
Tim Nielsen, Australia’s coach, was equally impressed with Sharma and Kohli, after the two took apart Jason Krejza, the lone specialist spinner on display. “India have got some fine players who have been fine players for a long time. So young players will sometimes need to wait for their turn,” he said. “I am sure the way they played today, if they keep doing it they will get their opportunities in the future.”