Spending time at crease, facing balls biggest takeaway: Rohit Sharma

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London, Sep 5 (IANS) India opener Rohit Sharma, who scored his first overseas century (127 off 256 balls) on Saturday during the third day’s play of the fourth Test, credited his ability to play out deliveries for his success during the ongoing tour of England.

Sharma, with 368 runs, has scored two half-centuries and a century in the ongoing series. Among top run-getters, he is just behind England skipper Joe Root who has 528 runs.

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“The most pleasing thing was that I was able to play 250 balls (256 balls). If you look at all the matches, [I have played] nearly 100 balls in every innings. That for me was the goal. Play balls. Try and see how I can stay on the pitch for as long as possible,” said Sharma to the media in a virtual interaction on Saturday after the third day’s play.

“When you spend some time, you see the bowlers and get the hang and feel of the situation. Spending time in the middle and spending time at crease was the biggest takeaway for me in the last four games I have batted in England. I wasn’t thinking about scoring runs. It was just about spending time and making sure that I bat as long as possible. Runs will come. You know the bowlers, what they are doing.”

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Sharma revealed that when he was asked to open in Tests back in 2019, he knew it would be his last opportunity to be part of the Test squad.

“At the back of my mind, I knew [back then that] it was the last chance for me. Trying another position in the batting order. I was very much aware of it [that I was being considered as an opener]. Because the talks were happening within the management regarding me opening the innings at some stage. So mentally I was prepared. I wanted to take that challenge and see how I can do well up the order,” explained Sharma.

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Sharma knew this was his last chance and he was willing to take the gamble and face the new ball, something he had done at ODI level.

“I had batted in the middle-order before. But things didn’t turn out to be the way I wanted to. But I knew this is going to be my last opportunity. But I think when you are playing a sport, you always have to take those chances and those risks. So I would say that I was very much ready for it. It did not come to me as a surprise. It was going to be my last opportunity. If I wouldn’t have succeeded anything could have happened.”

The 34-year-old, who is one of ODI cricket’s best-ever opening batsmen and has scored three double hundreds said that he had had to make a few adjustments to get ready for Test matches.

“It is a process and it takes time. We need to understand. When you are playing overseas, it is never easy. Everything has a process. When I started opening, we knew that all those big scores are just not going to happen. There will be a process that I need to follow. [I had to] Keep ticking the small boxes. That is something I did when I started opening the batting. There were little adjustments I had to make and I was happy to do that. When you play so much cricket, those little adjustments you should be able to make it based on the situation and conditions you will face. You just can’t just play shots, especially when you are opening in place like England. There were little adjustments. It is an enjoyable process. I knew results will come.”

Sharma had opened at home against South Africa and Bangladesh but then had to sit out of the tour of New Zealand in early 2020 due to injury. He also missed the first couple of Tests in Australia but returned for the last two Tests where he did well. He also was the most outstanding batsman on a very spin-friendly Chennai pitch during the second Test against England.

“Team management told me clearly that you will have a long run when you open the innings. But for me, I wanted to think in a way, [that] this is it. I have to make good use of the opportunity,” he said.

Sharma has already played 227 ODIs and scored 9,205 runs. He has also played 111 T20 Internationals.

“There is massive difference between ODI and Test cricket. Discipline [is needed in Tests]. That is on what I focussed, on and off the field. When you are not playing a game, when you are in the nets, discipline is something I wanted to bring into my batting.

“Whether it was about leaving the ball or having solid tight defence. All these things mattered and were added when I started preparing for this tour. And I had a lot of chats with players who have played here and done well and it really helped me a great deal.”

Sharma said that the series has given him great confidence.

“I have got great confidence. I knew I will be challenged with new ball. You have to prepare with discipline and you have to take that discipline in that match so I think I tried that a lot. Sometimes you are out also. You have to give yourself the best shot.”

–IANS

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