Rohit Sharma settles batting position debate

For the next few matches, the Mumbai Indians captain will settle for the same batting order that he utilised in the 46-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Evin Lewis (left) played a handy knock of 65 on Tuesday.   -  Sportzpics/IPL

Just after Mumbai Indians opened its account with a resounding win against Royal Challengers Bangalore, captain Rohit Sharma clarified he would like to stick to batting at No. 4, at least for the next few games.

For the third time in the last five editions of the Indian Premier League, the defending champion has lost at least three matches before registering a win. Sharma's batting position has continued to be another bone of contention at the start of another season.

While Sharma, who opens the innings for India in white-ball cricket, partnered Evin Lewis at the top of the order in the first two matches, he swapped the position with Suryakumar Yadav to bat at No. 4 in the last two games. That he was virtually made to don the role of the opener against Royal Challengers on Tuesday night — having taken guard with the team reeling at two for zero — didn't really alter Sharma's decision.

'Important to give guys comfort'

“I do not think right now we are looking to change anything. It is important to give the guys the comfort, because they should know where they are batting for the next few games. You cannot chop and change so much. I think it is not a good idea and it is not good for the team as well,” Sharma said after setting up his team's 46-run win with a knock of 52-ball 94 at Wankhede Stadium.

“They should know where they are batting and they can plan accordingly. If you keep changing too much it does not help anyone. I think for me, it is important to understand that and let that message go across. For me the reason I came down [the order] was the new guys — Surya has played before, Ishan [Kishan] is playing for the franchise for the first time and we want him to just go there and bat freely because he is that kind of a player. You need to give him that freedom, and [to] Surya as well... I think this is the ideal combination for us right now.”

'Don't guide West Indian players at all'

With Sharma coming good in the middle-order and Hardik Pandya getting into the act in the death overs as well, the Mumbai Indians batting finally seems to have stabilised for the season. The key for the team this season has been Evin Lewis, the left-handed Caribbean opener, who has made a strong start to his maiden IPL stint. Having scored 142 runs in four innings at a strike-rate of almost 160, Lewis has been a revelation at the top of the order.

Sharma, however, made it clear that retaining the natural flair is the key to getting the best out of the West Indian players. “You don’t guide West Indian players at all. You have to let them be themselves. If you try and talk to them and tell them, this is how you should defend, this is how you should play, opposite... nothing will fall in place,” he said with a straight face.

“It is better that we let them to their thing and that’s how you get the best out of them; [this is] one thing I have learnt from handling Kieron Pollard because he is with the team and I don’t tell him anything, so I guess it will be the same with Evin Lewis because naturally, he is the striker of the ball, so you should not complicate things with him and allow him the way he wants to play.”