With so much fanfare, as expected, about Sachin Tendulkar's farewell series, a very pertinent question hasn't got the sort of attention it demands: Who will fill the No. 4 spot in Tests once Tendulkar plays his final match in Mumbai? It holds significance as Tendulkar has made that position of his own, scoring 13408 out of his overall 15837 runs batting at No. 4.
Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma - the two immensely gifted cricketers, who have identical first-class numbers but contrasting temperament - might stake their claim for the much-cherished No. 4 spot if they start fulfilling the potential they have so often displayed in domestic cricket and shorter versions of the game.
Rahane began his first-class career as an opening batsman before he decided to try his skills in the middle order. His impressive record - 5691 runs in 64 first-class games at 59.90 - as well as his fluent touch and penchant to play long innings has often been raved about by the cricket pundits. A little longer run might help the 25-year-old to prove his credentials in the purest form of the game.
Rohit, too, boasts of an impressive record in his CV, having scored 4802 runs in 58 first-class matches at 60.78, including a triple ton. Getting a chance to open the batting in ODIs has given a new lease of life to this Mumbaikar's otherwise fledgling career. Talent has never been the problem with Rohit, his exploits in domestic cricket reflect that, but it's his lack of consistency that has often been questioned. But runs have started flowing ever since he began partnering Shikhar Dhawan as an opener in ODIs.
Another aspect for which Rohit has often been criticised is his temperament - remember his celebration after scoring a century against Australia recently? Unlike Rahane's serene demeanour, Rohit seems more expressive as well as aggressive, which are not bad things if moulded properly. Virat Kohli is a prime example of that. Over the years, Kohli has channelized his aggression in such a manner that it propelled him to achieve greater heights. It would only help Rohit's cause if he takes a leaf out of Kohli's book rather taking it from Dhawan's, whose celebrations after his century against Australia in Nagpur were rather shocking.
Also, by going in with Rahane and Rohit, and not Suresh Raina, the selectors have given enough indications that they see either of the two Mumbaikars or both forming the core of India's middle order in the future, considering the team's back-to-back overseas tours in the next one year. And the ensuing two Tests against West Indies will provide at least one of them a chance to showcase his skills, probably at No. 6. The idea is clear - perform here and get yourself the Tendulkar's No. 4 slot as a prize.