There used to be a time when Test cricket was supposed to be the be all and end all of serious, international cricket with ODIs and latterly T20 being mere distractions; as a result a century on debut used to merit so much praise from all quarters. However, without taking anything away from Rohit Sharma, who played an outstanding innings on debut against the West Indies at the Eden Gardens on the second day of the Test match, it needs to be remembered that Rohit is not a rookie or someone who has never had a taste of international cricket.
A Test debut is handed to the most deserving of cricketers and then conquering the high of such an achievement by focusing relentlessly for several hours in order to score a century requires talent, grit and determination in equal measure. Now, consider this- if the batsman has already played the bowlers in other forms of international cricket, then is there really an element of the ‘unknown’ that used to be associated with a Test match debut? Or if the cricketer has already had 5 years of experience in international cricket, it is anybody’s guess that he would not be as overawed by such an occasion as a rookie would be who might have only ever watched the opposition on TV. Additionally, the jump from domestic cricket to international cricket is often a considerable one.
In domestic cricket there are a few scoring opportunities in every over but in international cricket and especially in Test cricket, one might have to wait for plenty of overs before he gets a scoring opportunity. As a result, the batsman needs to judge which delivery he can go after and which one he needs to respect. However, that skill is something that comes after a few seasons at the highest level and that is why a century on debut used to be regarded as one of the most notable achievements in the career of any batsman.
Nowadays a batsman gets picked in the limited overs teams and might have to be a specialist limited overs player for several seasons before he gets to represent his country in Test cricket. However, throughout that period he gets to know the bowlers, the sort of skills that are required to negotiate the best bowlers and hence all the anxiety of playing in an international game for the first time surely goes out of the window. Sure, there might be an anxiety of performing at the Test level but the player cannot be termed a rookie, who has been given the international stage for the first time and that is why the centuries of those cricketers who scored their first Test century on their respective International debuts deserve more respect.
For instance even our very own Suresh Raina scored a century on debut against Sri Lanka- a team with whom he must have played every other day in ODIs in the seasons leading up to the series and it is understandable why the innings is not given as much importance, although technically it is as much as a debut century as the ones scored by Gundappa Vishwanath, Mohammad Azharuddin or Sourav Ganguly.
By Soham Samaddar
Image Source: Rohit Sharma@Facebook