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Rohit acknowledges the value of patience

Opener dwells into his new gameplan – stabilise at first, capitalise later

On Thursday afternoon when the Indian team walked out to board their bus for the MCG, an Indian cricket fan shouted out to Rohit Sharma - “Get a hundred Rohit, a big one”. Sharma looked in the fan’s direction; gave a smirk and quietly walked into the bus. At the MCG against Bangladesh, Sharma met that fan’s demands that noon when he notched up his maiden World Cup hundred, his seventh overall in ODIs. A crowd of fifty one thousand was treated to a batting specimen that had calmness, patience, composure and panache written all over it.

Along with Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit strung a strong opening stand. After Dhawan’s departure and two more quick wickets, Sharma showed his patient self. With Suresh Raina, he put up a 122-run stand for the fourth wicket and played perfect foil to his partner as he changed the course of the game with a quick-fire half century. With time, Rohit has realised the importance of constructing an innings and put a lot of thought into his batting that has helped him rake up numbers of tremendous magnitude. After helping India cruise into the semi-final, Rohit spoke about his ‘special’ ton in a chat with
bcci.tv.

Excerpts

Where would you place this hundred in your cricketing career?


It should be right up there. A maiden World Cup hundred is always special. It came at the right time and in a crucial game for the team. But I do not place my innings and knocks in any order. I feel all hundreds you get are really special. Centuries don’t happen every day and whenever you get one, you cherish it. What is more satisfying is the situation in which I got that hundred and most importantly that we won the game in the end, which is what matters. I cannot describe how special this World Cup campaign is for me. It is a very important tournament and this is a precious stage for me.

Two centuries at the MCG now – what is it about this ground that gets the best out of you?


I enjoy batting here. It is a good wicket to bat on. Today after the rain break the wicket became a lot better to bat on and the ball came nicely on to the bat. Also, I love the fact that there are a lot of people watching the game. The last two games we played here had a humungous crowd and today we had over fifty thousand people watching it. To perform in front of such a big crowd always gives you immense pleasure.

Do you set yourself small targets while batting?

Not really. Today the plan was simple and it was to bat as long as possible. I didn’t segregate my innings or plan as to how much I should get at the end of 10 or 20 overs. I knew that no matter how much you end up getting after 30 or 40 overs, you can always bank on the last ten overs. We lost important wickets at crucial times and it was important for one batsman to control the innings and stay till the end, which is what I did. How many deliveries I would take to get to the hundred was not important. It was important for a set batsman to stay till the end and I did just that.

Over the years, have you realised the importance of being patient initially before going for your shots?

That is the pattern of my batting. I like to take time initially and assess the conditions. I try to gauge the wicket behaviour, the shots I can play on that wicket and the ones I can cut down. I plan and pace my innings accordingly. The hundreds I have got of late have been similar hundreds where I take time initially and then switch gears. There is no mental approach to switching gears. It is about timing certain shots according to the condition of the game. My job was not over after getting to a hundred. I still had a lot of overs left and once I got my century I was focused on helping the team get a good score.

You had a strike-rate of over hundred in your last 50 balls. Is it a conscious effort to up the ante once you are batting in your 70s?

The wicket was really good and it was about backing yourself and going for the shots irrespective of the score you had against your name. I was holding a good shape while batting today and I tried to find gaps. I was not trying to hit the ball hard because it is a big ground and it was important to play to my strengths. You do get the odd deliveries that go for sixes. It is about playing according to the situation of the game and modifying your game accordingly.

How crucial was Suresh Raina’s half century in the context of the game?

I think more than my half century at that stage, it was Suresh Raina’s fifty that changed the momentum of the game. He scored at run-a-ball and changed the course of the game playing those shots. It completely put Bangladesh in a different position. They had an upper-hand initially but then Raina just came in and turned it in our favour. His fifty was important in terms of laying a good platform for posting a decent score. Our partnership was crucial after losing three wickets. We, as a batting unit, have always spoken about getting one big 100-run partnership and that partnership put us in a strong position.

How would the team look to take this confidence into the semi-final?

First we need to see who we are playing and then plan accordingly. It will be a huge game and now there is no looking back. We can’t afford any mistakes. All our three departments have done well in the last seven games. We have posted good scores, chased well and the bowlers have picked up 70 wickets in seven games. The fielders too have shown a lot of energy and we are doing well in unison. This shows that our team has a lot of caliber.

Anand Subramaniam

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The tale behind India’s bowling success

India’s bowling coach, Bharat Arun, dwells into the work gone behind the perfect six games

Sixty wickets in six games, bowling out all oppositions thus far in the tournament - who would have thought this Indian bowling attack was capable of doing so before the start of the World Cup?

Opposition batsmen made merry, line and lengths seemed wayward and hitting the right spots on the wicket looked farfetched. Doubts about abilities were raised, lessons learnt, if any, questioned, and the power-packed batting line-up was considered to be India’s saving grace in their attempt to defend their World Champions title.

Things have changed though. And quite remarkably so. Suddenly, there is this pace trio hunting in a pack, bowling with venom, hitting the right lengths and turning results in their favour. If Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav share the new ball to build pressure, Mohit Sharma backs it up by keeping things tight helping R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bank on the pressure to get wickets. Player roles have been identified and they have been played to perfection.

But how has this transformation come along? What’s the story behind India’s success with the ball this World Cup? We try to find out from India’s bowling coach, Bharat Arun, as he sheds light on India’s pace battery in a chat with bcci.tv.

Six games, six wins, 60 wickets – those make for some great numbers!

(Smiles)I think you can’t ask for anything better. Six out of six and sixty wickets can only make you proud of the way the boys have performed thus far. Looking forward, you can take the confidence and consistency of all the six matches into the quarter final game. Excellence is about repeating what you have done in the past and the challenge now is to go on repeating what has worked for you and what has been successful. But from the tournament point of view, we start from scratch right now.

How is it that the bowling unit has suddenly found the ‘right line & lengths’?

I feel, in the Tests and ODI series it was not the case of us not bowling well. We bowled well but we did it in patches. If you look back, every bowler, at some point of time, has bowled a brilliant spell. What we were lacking was bowling as a team. We worked out the areas where we have been economical and did a detailed analysis on it. We also discussed with the bowlers that there were certain areas they bowled which were difficult for the opposition to score of.

Once they got it clear in their minds, it was all about executing them well. I think our practice sessions have been really fruitful in that regard. We had the advantage of center wicket practice that immensely helped the bowlers to get their line and lengths right. The batsmen too have a huge role in it. When we had centre wicket practice sessions, the batsmen gave feedback to the bowlers as to which lengths would work and which ones would go for runs. A lot of interaction takes place between the batsmen and the bowlers and they help each other in understanding what exactly the bowling strengths are.

How do you come to a conclusion of the right areas to bowl at?


We identify details of when the bowler has been expensive and economical. We have our video analyst who keeps a record of all the deliveries bowled throughout. Accordingly, we chalk out plans and identify the specific areas were the bowlers have bowled and in turn the batsmen have found it difficult to score runs. We also keep a tab of how a specific bowler has given runs and through what type of deliveries. You then get to know the percentage of the right length to bowl. Once you understand that it is just about putting that to practice. We practice having those things in mind and simulating challenging situations in the drills.

Leading into the World Cup, how beneficial was the Test and ODI series?

It was a pretty long and tough Test tour and we played just three games in the triangular series. It wasn’t a bad tournament for the bowlers. We did exceptionally well against Australia after putting up 267 runs on the board and took the game to the last over after Australia were sailing at one point. The second game against England was low scoring but we did well in trying to defend 200 as England managed to get the target only in the 47th over. These threw light on what the good things are that the bowlers have done and the areas where they bowled were highlighted, which was huge in terms of the bowling awareness.

What exactly is bowling as a unit?

Bowling in unison is basically complementing each other while you bowl, which does not necessarily happen every time with every team. Sometimes, bowlers can get carried away if they are bowling well. At that time the bowler needs to understand his role and limitations. Also, if a bowler has bowled well from one end, the bowler from the other end should try and not to be over attacking, instead should try to stifle the runs. The idea of putting pressure in a one-day game is to stifle the runs. Getting wickets is one way of keeping the runs under check but how you go about doing it is more important. You need to maintain the pressure every single time and be consistent in it. This understanding of roles is important.

How have you approached the new rule of fielding restrictions of being allowed only four fielders outside the circle?

The new rules can be taken in two ways. With less fielders outside the circle, if you go a bit wayward, you can go for runs. But if you are bowling to your fields, it can be a great advantage. If the bowler can bowl exactly to the field set with one extra fielder inside, it can be used to your benefit. This is when plan execution plays a key role. We have taken it as a challenge and set ourselves situations wherein we can try and work it to our advantage. So far it has worked pretty well and we would hope it works well ahead.

Mohammad Shami has been exceptional this World Cup with 15 wickets so far. What do you make of his progress over the last few tours?


He has been really impressive. Mohammad Shami is one of the bowlers with the best release of the ball from the hand. The seam position of the ball at the time of delivery and landing is outstanding. He can bowl at 140-plus consistently with the same kind of seam position, which is a great talent. The great man, Richard Hadlee, has been impressed by Shami’s talent and labelled him as someone who will work wonders for India in the future. When you have those words coming from a bowling great, what else do you need as a bowler? Shami can look forward to a really bright future, which augurs well for Indian cricket.

How do you see the future of this current pace attack?

This is an exciting pace battery that can bowl at 140-plus. India has never had a pace battery of three to four fast bowlers who can bowl at 140-plus consistently. It augurs extremely well for the country. I still remember an India-Australia game from the recent tour where an Indian was the fastest bowler among both teams. That is an encouraging sign. This is something we need to highlight and take inspiration from. Once these brand of bowlers taste more success it will only help the upcoming fast bowlers in the country.

Also, the best good part about this attack is that they learn from each other and have a healthy respect for each other. For example, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is experienced and keeps talking to most of the bowlers about bowling in certain situations. They have become their own constructive critics. They like to discuss what they did with their fellow bowlers or what the other one would have tried in a similar situation. That has gone a long way in understanding their roles and strong points which is of the reasons for our success in the World Cup so far.

What would be the way forward to unearth more fast bowlers from the country?

There are a few bowlers back home who are good enough to emulate the current crop. There is a very healthy group of fast bowlers emerging from our country. We need to play a big role in making sure that these bowlers are nurtured properly. Regular monitoring will make sure they remain fast for many years to come.

The Under-19 is a great stage where young and upcoming bowlers get a taste of overseas conditions. It is important at that stage to identify the potential bowlers. It is a bigger challenge to train them and make them achieve their potential. The conversion of U-19 to the senior level should get higher in the years to come if the youngsters are given the right exposure and monitored well. Once that is done, I am sure we will have good quality bowlers emerging from our country.

Anand Subramaniam

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