There'll be a lot of challenges ahead: Rohit

Rohit Sharma cuts one to the fence en route his unbeaten 115 against South Africa on the opening day of the first Test in Visakhapatnam on Wednesday. AFP

Rohit Sharma has had a love-hate relationship with Test cricket over the last six years. An immensely gifted batsman blessed with oodles of natural grace and class, Rohit was handed a Test cap in 2013, six years after his ODI debut. He delivered a brilliant opening statement by scoring back to back centuries in the first two Tests against West Indies.

Things then took a bad turn for the Mumbaikar. With a technique found wanting against the moving red-ball, more so in overseas conditions, Rohit has been in and out of the Test side, failing to make an impact in the chances handed out to him. With newbie Hanuma Vihari grabbing his chance with both hands of late and Ajinkya Rahane returning to form in the West Indies, it seemed like the door was appearing to be shut on Rohit.

However, with opener K L Rahul going though a wretched run and Prithvi Shaw serving a dope ban, the light at the end of tunnel flickered for one more time when the management asked him to open. Although Rohit does that job in limited-overs phenomenally, it required courage and determination to pad up as an opener in Tests. Both those virtues were on display on Wednesday as he hit a classy 115 not out, to kick-start, probably his last, assault at making a name in the longer format.

Rohit, speaking after the day’s play, said opening in Tests could indeed resurrect his Test career, like it did to his one-day career when M S Dhoni asked him to open in 2013. “I think it suits my game to just don the pads and go out and bat. The waiting game, sitting inside when I was batting at 5 or 6, I think… I won’t say that didn’t suit my batting but here, your mind is absolutely fresh, you know that you have to play the new ball.

“You know what the two bowlers bowling with the new ball can do. So the game plan becomes a little easier at that time. You know the field, you know the ball will not reverse. The plan is simple when you face the new ball. When you are batting at No. 6, the field placements are different, the ball is reversing, you have to score runs in front of the wicket. So you have to keep these things in my mind.”

Having endured a roller-coaster ride in Tests, Rohit refused to get carried with the flourishing start as an opener. “When you are playing international cricket, you always look for opportunity. This is a great opportunity for me to open the innings. Yes, there will be a lot of challenges ahead but I’m not focussing on all of those. It’s pretty important for me to stay in present and think about what I need to do today rather than thinking about what has happened in the past or what is going to happen in future.

“For any sportsperson it’s important to stay in present, think about what he wants to execute on that particular day and of course coming days. The focus has always been on that. It’s a great opportunity to open the innings and you know when you start the innings for the team, there’s so mush positivity, so much feel good factor when you are opening the innings.”

Rohit will be hoping the feel-good factor lingers on for a long period of time.

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