Still struggling to cement his position in Test cricket, Rohit Sharma made a huge decision back in 2019. It was in a way an ultimatum, open the innings or forget Test cricket. The hugely successful white-ball batter changed his position and on Saturday, it finally came to a full circle with a fantastic century at Oval, his eighth Test century but first overseas. Looking back, Rohit said it was the best and most important decision he took as it was his last opportunity in Test cricket.
“In the back of my mind, I knew this was the last chance for me (in Test cricket), trying another position in the batting order. When the offer came to me to open the batting, I was very much aware of it because talks were happening within the management about me opening the innings at some stage. So, mentally I wanted to take that challenge and see how I can do well up the order. I knew it would be my last opportunity. If I hadn’t succeeded, anything could have happened,” Rohit Sharma said after his 127-run knock on Saturday.
Before that, it was not that he wasn’t successful in the middle-order but India needed an opener and Rohit Sharma started to struggle at No 5 or No 6. But opening the batting in Test wasn’t an easy task. Rohit wasn’t known for playing the moving ball well. Furthermore, his hitman white-ball avatar would overshadow his Test innings where patience is key and runs stopped coming. His batting average dipped to 39.62.
However, as an opener, slowly, Rohit Sharma turned his game. On Saturday, it was on full display. That he played 256 balls to get to 127 is a testament of the change the Mumbaikar brought into his batting. With his opening role, he also changed his fortunes and has averaged 58.48, more than anyone else in the team, even better than Virat Kohli at the moment.
“It’s always about the process and it takes time. When you’re playing overseas, it’s never easy and everything has a process. I think when I started opening, I knew that all those big scores are not just going to happen. There will be a process, which I need to follow, keep ticking the small boxes and that’s something I did. When I started opening the batting, there were little adjustments that I had to make and I was happy to do that. When you play cricket all over the year and you play so much cricket, those little adjustments, you should be able to make it based on the situation, based on the conditions that you’re going to face and the position of the batting as well,” Rohit Sharma said.
Why opening the innings was Rohit Sharma’s last chance?
- Rohit Sharma was one of the few cricketers to make Test debut after playing 100 ODIs.
- He was an instant hit, slamming two back to back Test centuries after his debut.
- But after the 2nd hundred in his 2nd Test, he scored only one Test century as he struggled in the middle-order. Frequent change in batting position didn’t help either.
- But since he became a specialist opener in 2019, he has already scored five centuries and four half-centuries with an average of 58.48.
- His average since 2019 is the highest amongst any Indian batsmen in the period.
With the century at Oval, Rohit Sharma also got the monkey off his back. He had to wait for 72 innings to score a century overseas and it couldn’t have come at any better time. His century helped India take a 171-run led. He said that the thought process was to spend time in the middle and play as many balls as possible.
“Getting a hundred whether it’s overseas or at home, it’s always a good feeling. That’s what all the betters strive for, getting those big runs and making sure that you always try and put the team in good positions. As for an overseas hundred, it was never in my mind. What I was focusing on was the process. You need to be at times you need to be patient. And I think I’ve been very patient with that. The most important and pleasing thing was that I was able to play 250 balls. That to me was a goal. The first goal was for me to play balls and see how I can stay on the pitch for as long as possible,” Rohit said.
As for the match, despite a 171-run lead, India aren’t in a safe position as the wicket has been flattened out and bowlers do not have much assistance from it. Rohit Sharma said playing the 1st hour on Sunday will be crucial and if India can post around 300-runs target, it will be helpful.
“The game is not over until it’s over. So, we need to put in the same sort of effort that we put in today early morning tomorrow as well. Hopefully, if guys can put their heads down and get the game towards us,” Rohit Sharma said.
At Day 3 Stumps, India were at 270/3 with Virat Kohli (22*) and Ravinder Jadeja (9*) on the crease.