Theirs wasn’t a huge partnership at the iconic SCG, putting up alliances of 70 and 71 in each innings. However, they lasted long enough to see the shine off – which must have given the hard-working Cheteshwar Pujara some relief after where he was placed in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Pujara hasn’t had that luxury batting at No. 3 for a few tours now, and a successful opening pair will only help him in his brief of nudging the Indian innings in the right direction and wearing down rival bowlers.
After all, it is always better to walk in at 75/1 after 20 overs or more rather than 10/1 in the third over or sometimes even before.
From a historical perspective, it was the first time in 53 years that an Indian opening pair had put up a 50-plus stand in Australia and, coincidentally, at the same venue. The first ones to do it were Syed Abid Ali and Farokh Engineer. Interestingly like Sharma and Gill, Ali and Engineer too were not born openers.
Sharma (26 & 51) and Gill (50 & 31) cut exquisitely, drove elegantly and kept their defences watertight until indiscretion got the better of them.
There’s no better player of attacking shots than Sharma these days in cricket, but the manner in which he got behind the line of ball and played the ball late on his way to his first fifty overseas in the opener’s role, only inspires confidence looking ahead.
Gill will probably like to leave the Australian shores with a three-digit score next to his name. But with 161 runs in four innings and with another Test match to go, he’s given convincing evidence to be considered a long-term prospect.
India legend Sunil Gavaskar, the original little master who weathered many new-ball spells under his floppy, sounded pleased with the openers’ effort. “We all know how good a player Rohit Sharma is. He was also getting behind the line and played the ball very late, that was very, very impressive. On a fourth day pitch, when the ball was turning just that little bit, the way they negotiated Nathan Lyon was also impressive. On the back of what we have seen, these two could be the opening pair to stick with,” Gavaskar said on air.
A tough summer of cricket awaits India as they will head to England for a full five-Test series. Sharma, along with the lanky Gill will, of course, try and put in as many miles as they can when they face Joe Root and Co in the four-Test series at home next month. Former India captain and ex-chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar, however, feels that KL Rahul is the man who needs to get his place back at the top.
“I’m really impressed with Gill. He has huge potential. But I would still prefer to have Rahul as one of the openers. Rahul, too, has great potential and if you are convinced about it, then you need to back him. Of course, he has failed in the last few Tests. What goes against him is that he’s not had a game over a month now. But in the longer run, I will back him.”