Features and Interviews
Being cautious at start helps: Rohit
India batsman speaks about his role and opening the innings
Rohit Sharma has always made spectators sit up and take notice when he is on song. Entrusted with the responsibility of opening the batting since January 2013, against England, the flamboyant batter has now slipped into the role comfortably. In recent times, his association with Shikhar Dhawan has helped lay several solid platforms for Team India. Sharma has started establishing himself as a batting force in ODIs and has understood his role well. During partnerships, he has sometimes been the aggressor, and on other occasions he has been content to hold one end up, rotate the strike and let the batsman at the other take on the bowlers.
The third highest run-getter in the ongoing series against Australia, he was instrumental in India chasing down two mammoth targets – earlier in Jaipur and then in Nagpur on Wednesday. In the sixth ODI as India chased 351, he made 79 off 89 balls and was involved in a 178-run opening stand with Shikhar Dhawan to set up the game for the hosts.
After India’s six-wicket win to level the series 2-2, Sharma spoke to bcci.tv about opening the innings and his role at the top of the order.
Excerpts from his interview:
On opening the innings
Opening the batting is not easy because when you go along the way, there are challenges that you have to face while doing that. So far I am really enjoying it. I just want to cash in whenever I get an opportunity; that’s my plan.
In terms of batting out in the middle, you have got to give yourself a chance to get a big score. I believe that you just have to be a little cautious while playing the first few overs, as once the shine of the ball goes, it’s different. I am not saying it is easy to bat.
When the ball is swinging, there is a lot of movement. So you got to see that off. And once the shine goes off, you can play your shots. When Shikhar and I bat, we always talk about this. But if there is a ball in my range, I will definitely go for it. But it is just that I am being a little extra cautious about my innings early on because I know once I see off that new ball for six -seven overs and see what is happening, then I can play my shots. That is basically my plan and it is coming off really well.
On his role
It is very important for us as openers to set a platform for the middle order to come in and play their shots. So it’s really important and it’s very challenging as well. Nobody realizes that. If they see 350 runs chased, they get really excited; they are really happy. But there are things that go into it. Today’s win was really a team effort. The openers set the platform for the middle order to come in. But that has always been the case with openers everywhere. To try and lay the foundation for the middle order is my role. That is my job and I just want to hang in there as much as possible.
On changing gears and pacing his innings
That is very important when you play one-day cricket. You need to change gears according to what the situation demands. So early on if the situation demands that you stay there and see off the new ball, then you have to do it. Once when the new ball’s shine goes off, you can then accelerate. So changing gears is really important in the ODI format. When you bat in the ODI format, you have got to understand the situation in which you are batting and how many runs you are chasing; or if you are batting first, you need to see what sort of wicket it is and what score is going to be enough. So accordingly I plan my innings.
I want to contribute. I am a team man. You don’t need to go berserk right from ball one. If somebody is playing well, you have got to rotate the strike and give him as many balls as possible to face, because he is in good nick and he is playing the ball well. So it is important to rotate the strike.
On how he prepares himself
Whenever I am in the middle, I just keep telling myself that this situation demands me to stay there now and I just need to rotate the strike. My time will come to accelerate and then I will accelerate. I just don’t want to do unnecessary things and put the team in trouble by losing wickets up front. It is important that we rotate the strike. Today was the best example. I was batting on 40 off 65-odd balls and we were still ahead of the run-rate only because Shikhar was hitting the ball well. My job was to just hold the other end. It is important to have wickets in hand when you are chasing big targets.
Whether having the likes of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, etc to follow help and inspire his batting
Yes, of course. We know that our middle order is very strong, so I bat accordingly. I talk to myself about what shots I need to play. And if we lay the foundation up front, then our middle order is so experienced that they can come and play their shots like they did today and even in Jaipur.
On the difference while batting in the middle order and opening
When you bat in the middle order, unless you lose early wickets, the shine of the ball is gone. It doesn’t move that much. So you can just come and rotate the strike straight away and play your shots if you want to because there is no lateral movement.
Whereas when you are opening the innings, the ball is new, it swings around and you can’t play a rash shot. So that’s what I have kept telling myself every time I have been on the field; I just want to be a little cautious. Yes, you have got to be aggressive at some point, but I am happy to do that. I am happy to play out the first few overs because I know my ability. I can strike the ball anytime I want to. So I just wait for that opportunity. Once you lay a solid foundation, then the opposition also starts worrying about things. That really puts a lot of doubt in their mind when it comes to bowling changes and field changes. So you can capitalise on that.
On batting with Dhawan
We know each other’s game really well. That is a very critical part of this partnership. We complement each other and we run between the wickets very well. We talk a lot on the field. We keep telling ourselves what shots we need to play on this wicket and stuff like that. We have played cricket together for a very long time. Since age group cricket we have seen each other bat, so that helps.
Today my job was just to hold one end and make sure I don’t lose my wicket, and that’s exactly what happened. We got a 170-plus partnership and that laid the foundation for the middle order to come and play their shots.
Whether having chased 360 in Jaipur gave them confidence while chasing 351 today
Nowadays I don’t know many runs can be chased. In Jaipur we won in 43 overs and today also it wasn’t very difficult. It was a comfortable victory as we won by six wickets. The new rule of having five fielders inside the circle gives you opportunities to play your shots and maneuver the field. When we chased down 360 in Jaipur, we always knew any score is chaseable now. It’s important to have wickets in hand when chasing such a big score.