WTC final: Shane Bond backs Rohit Sharma to shine as opener

Former New Zealand quick Shane Bond, also the bowling coach of Mumbai Indians in the IPL, feels Rohit's ability to put bowling attacks under pressure will be an advantage for India.

Mumbai Indians coach Shane Bond (right) with Rohit Sharma during the IPL.   -  FILE PHOTO/B. JOTHI RAMALINGAM

Rohit Sharma has got his Mumbai Indians bowling coach Shane Bond's backing to succeed as an opener during India's World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand in Southampton on June 18. Previewing the final, Bond discussed the duel between Rohit and Trent Boult, highlighting that Rohit's aggressive style works in his favour.

"Even during the Indian Premier League (IPL) season, [Trent] Boult was swinging the ball, hitting Rohit on the pad and telling him 'that's what is going to happen in the WTC final' (laughs)," Bond said at a virtual press conference organised by Star Sports on Tuesday.

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"So, they were already talking about it [WTC final] four months in advance. The banter was just brilliant. Those two were very aware that they were going to come up against each other. I can't wait for the Boult vs Sharma battle. I am expecting a few smiles between the boys as well, which will be good to watch."

Earlier this year, against England at home, Rohit's 161 in Chennai in the second Test and 66 in the first innings of the pink-ball Test reaffirmed his red-ball credentials. He also gave India a start in three of the four innings he played during the Border-Gavaskar series in Australia.

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In 17 innings as a Test opener, Rohit has earned 1,030 runs at an average of 64.37 with four hundreds and two fifties. Bond feels Rohit's ability to put bowling attacks under pressure like former Australia opener Matthew Hayden gives India an advantage. "I love Rohit as a player... I see him almost in a Matt Hayden type of role where he goes and imposes himself [on the oppoistion] as he did against England at home," Bond said.

"He is a very dynamic player in difficult conditions, can take the game away from a team even with New Zealand bowling with the new ball. He is such a strokemaker. It sort of suits him being at the top of the order when the ball is hard. There are obviously some areas in his game that New Zealand can look to exploit, but he scores fast, and if you score fast and put runs on the board, that instantly puts pressure on the bowling attack. As a bowler, there is nothing worse than going for runs when you are trying to pitch it up."

Rotating bowlers

Bond feels New Zealand's 1-0 Test series win in England last week - only its third-ever on English soil - means they will begin the final on Friday with valuable game time under their belt. India, on the other hand, would've played just two intra-squad practice matches. "It [Lack of preparation] is an issue to a point, but they are an experienced unit, so they know how to get themselves ready with a shorter span of preparation," Bond said.

"I think the conversations will be around how Virat Kohli uses his fast bowlers. The length of their spells will be incredibly important."

While India has lost both the Tests it has played in Southampton (2014 and 2018), New Zealand will be playing its maiden Test at this venue. If the conditions remain dry and the match goes into days four and five, spin could become a key factor on the Ageas Bowl pitch.  Bond feels the manoeuvring of the spinners will be key for India in ensuring the fast bowlers remain fresh throughout the match.

Lack of rhythm

"Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are quality bowlers in all conditions. If they [India] play both, it will allow Kohli to rotate his fast bowlers. If India find themselves bowling first in those conditions, then how Virat manages his quicks upfront with not many overs behind them will be crucial. New Zealand will be looking to put miles in their legs and ask them to back up day after day. The advantage India have are the two spinners.

"That said, Indian bowlers are used to bowling on flat, dry wickets, and when there is some help in the pitch, they get something out of it. In England, they will seam and swing the ball. Whoever [fast bowlers] they pick in the final XI will be a real handful for New Zealand. So, India's balance of attack is better. The only thing going against them is lack of rhythm for quicks."

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