How Rohit Sharma rebooted for new responsibility
Throughout his career, Rohit Sharma has been waiting for a spot in Tests, his “no.1 priority”. Now and then he would get a chance, only to let it slip out of his hands. The wait continued. And when it came again, it came as an opener. And the wait was over — for both Rohit and India. On a day he smashed an unbeaten hundred, Rohit, once seen as the country’s next big middle-order player, talked about how opening the innings suits him as it gives him a clarity of thought.
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“The game plan becomes a little easier (as an opener). You know what the two bowlers with new ball can do. You know the field, you know the ball will not reverse. The plan is simple when you face the new ball,” he said after the first day’s play.
It’s a refreshing take on opening, and it made even more sense — and revealing of his game in middle order — when he listed out the problems he would face when batting down. “When you are batting at no.6, the field placements are different, the ball is reversing, you have to score runs in front of the wicket. For my game, I can’t say for sure but just padding up and going out to bat suits better,” he said.
If there was one thing that held him back in the past in Tests, it was his cluttered mindset. Of trying to make things happen. Now, when he talked about the difficulties there, it all made sense.
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Like “scoring runs in front of the wicket”. With the new ball, he can work with the pace to deflect the ball behind the square on either side. His punches and glances come into play. With the old ball, he can’t start his innings in that fashion, he has to try and go a lot straighter.
Like “you know the ball will not reverse”. His feet movement has been iffy in the past when he would get in a tangle with forward-and-across prod and reverse swing was obviously a big problem. It would mess with his forward press and he would get a lot more constricted — almost unnatural — in his style. Then with his intent to push the game ahead, he would end up trying to loft the spinners too early in the piece and hole out.
All that, he says, has been erased from his system now that he is an opener. There is more awareness about what the bowlers are going to do against him — in the off-stump corridor with the occasional nip-backer. And he can tailor his response accordingly, not worry about much else but those two deliveries in particular.
Of course, not all pitches are going to be like Vizag, or like those that he usually gets in ODIs. When there is some spice, even when he knows what’s going to come at him, it can be a different ball game. But in his mind, he says, he knows what’s going to come.
“You have to train your mind than anything else. Technically, yes, you’ve got to look into it, certain aspect of batting. There are a lot of things when you open the innings in red-ball cricket which you have to be aware of. Very clear in my mind as to what I wanted to do. There was no confusion about how I want to approach, no second thought, I was pretty clear in my head.
“You’ve gotta focus on basics at that time, playing closer to the body, leaving the ball. We have played so much cricket in India, we know personally, I know what happens after 7 or 8 overs. The shine of the ball is gone. It’s so humid out there. The ball doesn’t swing much thereafter. Then it’s about playing your game and taking the game forward. Because its a slow and low pitch. It’s very crucial you don’t get stuck at any point. That is what my thought process was while I was batting. I’ve played enough cricket in India to understand that,” he said.