By Khurram Habib
Ahmedabad, Feb 25 (IANS) After his dismissal off the bowling of spinner Nathan Lyon in the first innings of the fourth and final Test against Australia in Brisbane last month, Rohit Sharma was criticised for being too aggressive and profligate. But that same approach has held him in good stead as the right-handed batsman has emerged as the difference between India and England over the last two Tests.
After scores of 26, 52, 44, 7, 6, and 12 on surfaces that were good to bat on, Sharma played some of the best innings to be seen in recent times on wickets that aid turn from the first session of the first day.
Sharma’s 161 off 231 balls in the first innings of the second Test in Chennai took India to 329, which proved to be a winning total. That 161 was almost half of India’s score.
On Wednesday, the opening day of the third Test here, he again powered to 66 off 96 balls which was 45 per cent of India’s eventual total of 145.
Sharma has looked to take the spinners on.
“You need to have intent. You need to look to score runs, because you can’t just keep blocking. You saw that the odd ball might just skid on to stumps when you play for the turn. So, it is important to keep that intent and try and use your feet, do as many things as possible to stay ahead of the bowlers. This is very important when you are playing on a pitch that has lot to offer to bowlers,” said Sharma, explaining his strategy after the match.
The 33-year-old batsman, who had struggled to cement his spot in the Test side for a long time before establishing himself at the top of the order in 2019 home Tests after 12 years of international cricket, has been the only batsman who has looked in control in the last two Tests.
Most other batsmen have been playing for the turn and been foxed by ones that have gone on straight.
Sharma got big scores in the home Tests in 2019 but was injured for the tour of New Zealand in early 2020. Post Covid-19 lockdown, he missed the first two Tests of Australia series due to hamstring injury and subsequent quarantine on late arrival in Australia. He played only from the third Test onwards.
But Sharma didn’t hold back his shots and show any nerve on return from the break enforced by lockdown and injury.
That clear mindset was something no other batsman had in the last two Tests except for Ashwin in the second innings of second Test, though by that time England were already out of the match.
“I was trying to find ways to score runs. My intent was not to survive. My intent was to score runs. I had a clear mindset,” Sharma said.
Sharma made his ODI and T20 International debut in 2007 but made his Test debut in 2013. His innings in these two matches have shown that at home, he remains the batsman to follow.