On a rank turner, even an iota of doubt while playing the sweep shot could lead to trouble. So it was the clarity in Rohit Sharma’s mind about going through with his shots that helped him during his knock in Chennai on the first day of the second Test.
With one of the best exhibitions of sweep shots played at the Chepauk since Sachin Tendulkar’s valiant 136 against Pakistan in 1999, Rohit has put his team in a commanding position on a track that is deteriorating pretty fast.
“Before it’s too late, you start doing what you want to do and you can’t be tentative. If you want to sweep, you sweep it,” Rohit said.
Having watched Joe Root dominate the Indian spinners in the first Test, it was like a ready reckoner for Rohit, who had prepared well during the last two training sessions.
“We knew how the pitch was prepared and we knew that it would turn. So we had a good few training sessions before today and trained according to what we’re supposed to expect today,” he said.
“When you play on turning pitches where you have to be pro-active and you can’t be reactive. Getting on top of the bowler and making sure you are ahead of him. Little adjustment based on that.
“If it’s turning, then how much of it... things like that before making decisions on shot selection,” the white ball vice-captain said.
Moeen Ali had troubled the Indian batsmen in the past and for Rohit, it was imperative that England’s senior off-spinner needed to be swept from the rough to negate any chance of a leg before decision.
“What helped me was preparation I had before the game. Understanding the line that Moeen Ali was bowling. He was bowling into the rough, so there is a slight chance of getting leg before decision,” he explained.
“Also I saw the deep square leg was pushed back, so even if I top-edged it wouldn’t carry and land in a safe place. Those were my ideas and thoughts.”
According to Rohit, sweep is a percentage shot, which takes the condition of the pitch out of the equation.
“Sweep shot is something that you know can frustrate a bowler if you are playing that very well. If you play that shot, there is not much that the bowler can do from there or pitch can do from there.
“It was a percentage shot to play as he was bowling outside off-stump and lbw doesn’t come to play. Only an odd ball he was bowling on the wicket where I wanted to use my feet and cover the spin while reaching towards the ball.”
In the case of left-arm spinner Jack Leach, it was about presenting a straight bat.
“Leach was bowling stump-to-stump, so it was important that I play with the turn. It was important to play with a straight bat as the turn was slightly angled. I was making sure that I push the ball between the cover and point and rotate the strike.
“Once you rotate the strike, it’s not easy for a bowler to bowl to a different batter every time. I wanted to bat as long as possible since the pitch is going to show a lot of wear and tear from days two and three.”
Rohit didn’t want to rate any of his hundreds even though he would know in his heart that this would be the topmost among his seven three-figure marks.
“I am not going to rate any of my knocks because every knock comes under a different kinds of pressure and this came under different circumstances.
“I am not the person to rate any of my knocks. Little disappointed to get out like that but happy that team is in a good position,” he said.
‘Ajinkya scores when the team needs’
Ajinkya Rahane has always made himself counted when the team has been in testing situation which is a testimony to his class as a batsman, feels second Test centurion Rohit Sharma.
Rohit and vice-captain Rahane added 162 runs for the fourth wickets as India scored 300 for 6 at stumps on the first day of the second Test against England.
“Ajinkya, he is one of our top players. He has done extremely well and played some crucial knocks (over the years). He has time and again shown that when the team needs a batsman to stand up, he has done that many times,” Rohit was all praise for his fellow Mumbaikar, who scored 67 on the day. No doubt their stand was crucial in the context of the match and Rohit acknowledged that.
“Three wickets had fell before lunch and at the time he came to bat, it was crucial for us to build a partnership. We have seen many times, when the team need runs, he (Rahane) has shown his batsmanship and made runs in difficult times,” added Rohit.
Rohit was slightly annoyed that there were even talks about Rahane’s form since he didn’t get runs in seven successive innings.
“I don’t understand why these talks take place? But, anyway, his knock was very important for the team at that point and our partnership was also necessary for the team and we took the team to a comfortable position till tea, because I believe 350 will be a good score on this wicket,” added Rohit.
Rohit expects Rishabh Pant and Axar Patel to bat as long as possible.
“We still have four wickets left and we hope that the batsmen who are currently batting (Rishabh) Pant and Axar (Patel), make as many runs because already the rough patches have been created.”
Rohit also said that he also suggested Rahane to play sweep shots.
“We were constantly chatting about it, when we were playing seamers, Ajju was telling me he was standing outside the crease and I can also stand outside the crease,” he said.
“When we were playing spinners, I was sweeping them from the rough, so I told him. Because the two-three balls that he played went into the air, then I told him sweep will be a better option, so he might as well play that.
“It is percentage shot on that pitch and the bowler bowling that line…,” he explained.
According to Rohit, the chats with Rahane during their partnership was equally important.
“So, we spoke a lot between us and so that partnership which seemed long. It is one of the reasons because we were chatting constantly and making sure that what we need to do as a batter in between was important, so that chat was necessary for us. We have played a lot together, we understand each others batting and it helped us,” added Rohit.
Rohit also stressed that he is interested in the process and does not bother about what has happened in the past.
“I try to stay in the moment because what has happened, what will happen, we cannot control, what is happening in present, we need to think about that.
“I am not interested in what has happened, what will happen, I am interested in the process, current situation and I try and stay in that scenario,” he added.
(With PTI inputs)
Watch Rohit Sharma’s full press conference below:
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