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Enter Rohit in scrum for slots

Rohit Sharma will hope fate holds his hand this time, not trip him from behind.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2010 23:03 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya

Rohit Sharma will hope fate holds his hand this time, not trip him from behind.

Sharma would have made his Test debut against South Africa in February this year, but he twisted his ankle during practice on the morning of first match of the series. That allowed Bengal wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha to make a fortuitous debut as a specialist batsman.

Eight months later, Sharma may need some luck to make it to the XI against New Zealand, in the remainder of the ODI series.

The middle-order batsman has been included in the ODI squad for the first time since August after the selectors decided to rest Suresh Raina. India have sealed the five-match series with three straight wins, but stand-in captain Gautam Gambhir insists on fileding the best in every game.

"Yes, if we feel that the wicket demands that we need another batsman, then we will have an extra batsman in the side. But putting the best team on the park is more important than giving opportunities to other players," Gambhir said after Saturday's win in Vadodara.

In that match, which Sharma missed because he was playing for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, allrounder Ravindra Jadeja played in place of Raina. That meant another reserve batsman, Saurabh Tiwary, has now been in the squad for three matches without being tried once and logically, he should get a look-in before Sharma.

Jadeja's inclusion was interesting. Yuvraj Singh, whose left-arm spin was used extensively and with success in the first two matches, did not bowl in the third one because Jadeja was. India clearly did not need an extra spinner. They just wanted to try out Jadeja.

If they do try out Sharma here in Tuesday's fourth one-dayer and/or in Chennai in the fifth one, he must grab his chance. Shine and he could fly to South Africa for the five ODIs that follow the Tests and get more opportunities to impress the selectors before next year's WorldCup.

Since that fateful February morning, Raina and Cheteshwar Pujara have overtaken Sharma in the pecking order for Tests. However, Sharma has had an eventful time in limited-over cricket.

He returned to the one-day team during the South Africa series, scored his first ODI centuries in Zimbabwe and got dropped after scoring 152 runs in eight matches in Sri Lanka. His latest comeback, though, has been on the back of solid performances in four-dayers.

"Rohit is in good touch and that is very important for a batsman going into big games," Sharma's Mumbai coach Praveen Amre told Hindustan Times here on Sunday.

"He knows this is a big platform for him to perform and put his name forward for the World Cup."