Laxman backs Rohit Sharma to succeed as Test opener

V.V.S. Laxman wants Rohit Sharma to stick to his natural game when he opens the innings during India's three-Test series against South Africa.

Rohit Sharma will be opening India's innings in the upcoming three Tests against South Africa.   -  Vivek Bendre

A change in technique after being asked to open had a negative impact on his performance and no wonder V.V.S. Laxman wants Rohit Sharma to stick to his natural game in his new role during the upcoming South Africa Test series.

Laxman was one of the earlier examples in Indian cricket, who was forced to open the innings between 1996-98 despite being a specialist middle-order batsman, a role he never felt comfortable with.

“The biggest advantage that Rohit has is his experience, which I didn’t had. I opened in Test cricket only after playing four Test matches. Rohit has played 12 years of international cricket. So he has the maturity and the experience and also in good form,” Laxman told former India cricketer Deep Dasgupta, during a chat on the latter’s YouTube channel “Deep Point".

Stick to technique

Laxman, who himself being a touch player, could relate with Rohit’s situation and said how a tweak in technique had messed his rhythm.

“I believe the mistake that I made while opening the innings was to change my mindset, which got me a lot of success as a middle-order batsman, whether it’s batting No. 3 or No. 4,” said the 44-year-old, who scored 8781 runs in 134 Tests.

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“I also tried to change my technique. As a middle-order batsman, I was always having a front press (front-foot trigger) and then go towards the ball, whereas talking to seniors and coaches, I went back and across as I had to face Curtly Ambrose (97-away series), who would generate steep bounce from length. This huge change in approach affected my batting and I hope Rohit shouldn’t do it,” Laxman said.

“If you tweak your natural game too much, then you will not get the results as your mind gets cluttered and you tend to lose your rhythm. I can admit that my flow was affected when I opened. Rohit is a rhythm-based player and if his touch gets affected, then it will be difficult,” Laxman said.

Lauds selectors

However, Laxman is happy that the selectors have given Rohit a chance to open the batting in three Test matches against South Africa.

“He will get three Tests and it’s not often that a selection committee shows so much faith in a player and guarantee that he will open in three games.”

The Proteas attack save Kagiso Rabada doesn’t have a lot of quality and penetration in their attack and batting upfront will give him time to play big knocks, Laxman said.

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“The SA attack is thin on experience on these tracks and for me, only Rabada is a wicket-taking option. The bowling lacks penetration and if he can get set, he can score a double hundred also. He will have more chance of big scores than batting No. 6.”

For India’s white-ball vice-captain, being an opener is far better than warming the bench, the batting great feels.

“Rohit wants to play Test cricket and with Ajinkya (Rahane) and (Hanuma) Vihari at No. five and six Rohit knows that his chance to do well is as an opener. He should take this positively. He has nothing to lose. For a class player like him, it is better than sitting on the bench. He has to be in that playing XI,” he concluded.