Rohit Sharma: We have to believe in our batsmen

Failures in “one or two Test matches” should not determine their value, says Rohit.

Rohit Sharma speaks at a promotional event in Mumbai.   -  Emmanual Yogini

Defending India’s batsmen despite their lacklustre performance in England so far, Rohit Sharma believes they can redeem themselves in the rest of the tour. The No. 1 ranked Test team was bowled out for 162 or less in three out of four innings as it stumbled to a 2-0 series deficit.

“I know none of the eleven members want to lose. I am sure they must have been hurt by the results. They gave everything but sometimes, it doesn’t happen. I don’t think there was anything that could be done. We tried everything,” Rohit said on the sidelines of a promotional event here.

Rohit acknowledged the supreme quality of England’s bowling attacking, but asked detractors to be patient before passing their judgement on India’s batsmen. He said, “[England] bowled really well, but our batting was something that let us down. Again, these seven-eight batters have done well in England [in the past]. They have proven themselves. One or two Test matches or three-four innings won’t judge what kind of players they are. They have done it in the past. We have got to believe in them.”

‘Outplayed’

Notwithstanding his optimism, Rohit admitted India was “outplayed” in the second Test at Lord’s. India scored a total of 237 across two innings en route to an innings defeat — it’s 11th heaviest in history. “[In] the Lord’s Test match, as the captain rightly said, we were outplayed. They were good in all the departments. I thought that the first Test was something we could have pulled off. That was a very close Test match,” he said.

Keeping his faith in the side, Rohit cautioned against making wholesale changes in the line-up. He said, “[It is] very tough to make changes in between. Whatever changes you do, you must do it at the start. Trying to change a whole lot in middle of the series, would not be a good idea. You can do minor changes, but you cannot do a whole lot.”

"England bowled really well" in the series so far, Rohit Sharma acknowledges. Photo: Getty Images

 

Instead, he offers a suggestion for the under-fire batsmen: work hard and tackle the swing.

“[All] batsman in the squad know their strengths and weaknesses, so what they can do is go back and try and work on that. The English bowlers are more of swing bowlers, so our batsmen can focus on that aspect of the game. It is up to the individuals on how they want to prepare and counter swing bowling. All the bowlers are trying to swing the ball rather than keeping it fast or bouncy,” he said, adding, “The batsmen know about it and they are working hard. They can come back in the next Test and put the English bowlers under pressure. In the past, I have seen that when you put them under pressure, most of the team struggle. If we can do it, then nothing like it.”

Horses for courses

With Hardik Pandya struggling to make it count, will it be a better idea to play seven batsmen?

It all depends on the pitch, according to Rohit. “It depends on the pitch. In Trent Bridge, it will depend on the captain on what he is comfortable with,” he said.

Kohli has led in 37 Tests so far and every time there has been a different playing eleven. So, in a competitive set-up, does the constant fear of getting dropped bring the best out of the players? “As a player, nobody would want to be in a situation where if you don’t perform, you will be out of the team. But again, the captain and the coach are under tremendous pressure to give the best every time. So, whatever changes they make, it is in the best interest of the team and the team members stand by the decision. Nobody gets upset. Of course, they are upset of missing out, but they are not frustrated,” Rohit said.

Indian batting has crumbled under pressure in the Test series so far. Photo: Getty Images

 

“They understand it is in the interest of the team. I have captained some of the teams, so I know how it is to leave some of the players out. The last thing you would want is players not standing by your side. The players always trust the decisions because at the end of the day, we have a common target — going and winning games and making the country proud. But then, only 11 players can play and rest of the guys will miss out. The guys who miss out can go back to the drawing board and get better to come back harder. No door is shut for anyone,” he reasoned, before quickly adding: “I believe in that and I am sure the others believe in that too. You can’t always be out of the team. You have to give yourself a chance and whenever the opportunity arises, you have to deliver.”

Rohit outlined the value of acclimatising to playing and weather conditions in foreign lands as it helps the team gear up for its task ahead. Yet, despite reaching England early, results haven’t been much to write home about.

‘Few days to prepare’

He said, “You have to prepare for the conditions and the best preparation you can have is by going to that particular country and playing as many matches and have as many practice sessions as possible. It cannot happen because we get few days to prepare for a series. But whatever time you get, be it in Mumbai or Australia or England, you try and prepare to the conditions accordingly.”

He added, “Suppose you are going to Australia, they have bouncy pitches, the ball doesn’t swing as much as it does in England. You would rather use plastic ball and practice on cement pitches — so that the ball goes a little faster. I have grown up playing on cement pitches as a kid, so that is something I would go back to. In Mumbai, there are a few facilities we have. We try and prepare accordingly. But all said and done, the best preparation you can have is by going to that country and spending as much time as possible and giving yourself a chance to prepare. No preparation will do justice as to what you do in that country.”

With the team faring poorly, does he see himself making a comeback soon?

Rohit doesn’t really have an answer to that. “The sad part is, neither me nor my fans can get me back into the team. It’s the selectors, captain and coaches who can bring me back. All I would say is that ‘support the team’. It is time to stand by the team. I would like to be in the team, but it is not in my hands,” he said.

He, however, doesn’t have any problems if he is asked to open the innings in a Test.

“Look, I have never been offered [to open the innings in Tests] yet but I am open to anything as in whatever the team management wants. I never thought I will be an opener in ODIs when I started playing or when I was playing for India. But it happened along the way, so I [want to] keep my options open. No option is shut for me, so if the opportunity comes, I will take it,” the batsman signed off.