How to handle Rohit Sharma as a Test opener

As Rohit Sharma makes his opening debut in whites, Pravin Amre, Chandrakant Pandit and Rohit’s first coach, Dinesh Lad, throw light on the hitman’s Test erudition.

Rohit Sharma's limited-overs exploits perhaps heighten the pressure on him to perform up front in the longer format.

At times, the debates on Rohit Sharma’s red-ball prowess seem uncalled for; averaging close to 40 (39.62) in a stop-start Test career is not as bad as it may sound. The cynicism perhaps stems out of the expectations keeping his limited-overs exploits as a template.

As India starts its home season — with the first Test against South Africa in Visakhapatnam from Wednesday — all attention will be on Rohit, who is likely to open the innings. The Mumbai batsman earned it by virtue of his consistency as an opening batsman in other formats.

What does Rohit need to do to stand out and cement his spot in whites? Former India batsman and renowned cricket coach Pravin Amre feels it is a case of “minor adjustments”.



“He is in a good space after that World Cup performance. As a Test cricketer, you need to do minor adjustments and he is experienced to make those changes. As an India player, he should be ready for all challenges. He has two hundreds in India against West Indies, that is a useful thing to take back," he told Sportstar.

Rohit missed out on a chance in the tour of West Indies but Amre believes it is not too late to cash in on the World Cup form as it involved handling swing in England.

“This is the best opportunity for Rohit because of the way he batted in the ICC Cricket World Cup in a high-pressure tournament in conditions like England. He did extraordinary to get those five hundreds for the team. That form is important.

The opening slot across formats is a promotion of sorts. And there is “no rush” as skipper Virat Kohli said at the pre-match press conference. The faith is likely to help Rohit breathe easy.

“Once he gets set, he can score hundreds. When Team India get a good 50 to 100-run start, the team is different and that’s the role he can play,” Amre added.

READ : Rohit Sharma not to be rushed in Test opener role, says Virat Kohli

Natural game must

Rohit led the Board President XI in the tour match against the Proteas. The match ended in a draw but Rohit fell for a duck. Vernon Philander had him caught behind in two balls. But then, it was a dress rehearsal.

Chandrakant Pandit, who studied Rohit’s game for a long time, feels he should not be kept under pressure. “He is a dominating player and you can’t expect somebody to change that nature of the game. There should not be pressure on him, he should be given a free hand.

“Technically, I don’t think he is weak anywhere. Since he is experienced now, I think he understands his strengths. He has definitely improved,” said Pandit, who won five Ranji Trophy titles coaching Mumbai and Vidarbha in domestic cricket.

Pandit stressed on the importance of understanding roles. “He should not be confused, he should be given the confidence. He is basically an aggressive batsman who plays his shots - like Virender Sehwag.”

READ : Saha gets nod ahead of Pant for Test series opener

Staying on the wicket

Rohit’s first coach, Dinesh Lad, took a leaf out of Rohit’s World Cup knocks to highlight his growth as a cricketer. “He was taking time to pace his innings in the World Cup and it never felt that he was playing a rash shot. He punished the loose balls,” he said.

Lad believes the key lies in surviving the first session and Rohit of the present is capable.

“There is not much movement in white-ball compared to the red. That’s a huge difference. He needs to stay on the wicket. Whenever he has got out in Tests, he has thrown his wicket away, out nahi hua woh (he did not get out).

He wanted to hit off-spinners over midwicket, over long off, he has got out like that.”

As Rohit starts his last-minute yoga before the ultimate nirvana in the middle, his mind should revolve around all things bright and beautiful.