Chairman of selectors M.S.K. Prasad on Thursday backed Rohit Sharma to come good at the top of the order in Test matches for India, saying the Mumbai batsman was keen on opening the batting ahead of the three-Test home series against South Africa starting October 2.
Lokesh Rahul was on Thursday dropped from the 15-member squad for the South Africa series owing to his poor run of form in the West Indies, opening the door for Rohit to open the batting. Rookie Punjab batsman Shubman Gill was handed a maiden Test call-up and the youngster can also bat in the middle order.
"Yes, we are definitely looking at him (Rohit) and want to give him an opportunity up the order. He is keen (on opening) and the selection committee as well as everyone (team management) are keen on the idea. We want to see where he stands and then take a call," Prasad said after the selection committee meeting.
"With regard to Shubman Gill, we look at him as an opener as well as a middle-order batsman. We are looking at him as back-up for both the slots. As he keeps playing more and more, he will get his opportunity because he is a player for all three formats," he said.
Rohit will lead the Board President''s XI in a three-day warm-up match against the Proteas in Vizianagaram from September 26.
"He is opening in white-ball cricket for nearly a decade now and I am sure he has the ability to bat up the order. We have seen that in white ball cricket and if he can replicate that in red ball cricket, nothing like it," Prasad said.
For Rahul, who has scored only one Test hundred in over 18 months, Prasad said that the Karnataka batsman got a fair run but a dip in form forced the panel to go for a change.
"We definitely communicated to KL (Rahul). He is an exceptional talent but unfortunately his form has dipped in red ball cricket," Prasad said.
"With Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay gone, we can''t keep changing both the openers in the side. Someone had to stick around. And among the exiting seniors, KL probably got more opportunities. Unfortunately, he was not delivering consistently. He delivered in patches and that''s why we backed him because when he is on song, he is treat to watch," Prasad said.
The chief selector also hinted that there is a pool of openers now to choose from.
"So you know, in the pipeline, Shubman is opening and we have Priyank Panchal and Abhimanyu Easwaran, who are doing extremely well. From the available lot, we will look at giving them as many opportunities as possible.
"Whoever gets an opportunity also gets a fair run. We have alternatives and back-ups, we have created a bench strength," Prasad said.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya was not included in the squad and Prasad said the all-rounder might not fit in in home conditions.
"Hardik is not in the side because if you look at home conditions, he may not fit in. Also, a lot of white ball cricket is being played...it''s a culmination of both," he said.
Prasad also played down rumours that Mahendra Singh Dhoni might retire from international cricket. "No, absolutely not. I am really surprised to hear that," he said.
Dhoni's wife Sakshi Singh also took to Twitter to term all the talks of the former India skipper calling it a day as rumours.
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