Rohit Sharma proved his mettle in his maiden outing as Test opener by smashing two classy centuries in the series opener against South Africa in Visakhapatnam.
It was a herculean effort from Rohit as he smashed 13 sixes in the Test to set a new world record. He also became the 6th Indian to score twin tons in a Test match, joining Vijay Hazare (1), Sunil Gavaskar (3), Rahul Dravid (2), Virat Kohli (1) and Ajinkya Rahane (1) in an elite list.
Thanks to Rohit’s Man-of-the-Match performance, India defeated the Proteas by 203 runs and secured a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
As the hosts are now gearing up for the second Test in Pune, head coach Ravi Shastri reflected on Sharma’s dream start as an opener in red-ball cricket.
“I would hate to see a player of his quality sitting in the reserves. In the West Indies I was very clear that he should open and had a chat with [Virat] Kohli about it. This was his opportunity,” he told Sportstar.
Elaborating the qualities of a Test opener, Shastri added: “It is the mindset. A lot of guys in India should have opened the batting in the last 20 years for the sake of the team balance but they didn’t have the stomach for it. You have to put mind over matter. You got to respect the new ball and assess the conditions.”
“Who would have thought Virender Sehwag would average nearly 50 in Tests. But he conquered those first 20 minutes against the new ball. I don’t think any other opener actually enjoyed opening like he did.”
Asked if he sees any similarity between Rohit and Sehwag, the India coach opined: “Both destroyers, both with the ability to score very big given the tempo with which they play.”
Besides Rohit, speedster Mohammad Shami did a great job on the fifth day of the Vizag Test to help India bundle out the visitors for 191. Shami returned with the bowling figures of 5 for 35 on a pitch where there was not much assistance for the fast bowlers.
Hailing Shami’s brilliance, Shastri said: “I give him a lot of credit. From where he has come from in the last 18 months. He has had personal issues, but to bounce back from that and bowl the way he did is remarkable. He is relentless. As a batsman I would have hated to face him. He is at you all the time, he is very skilful and in conditions like yesterday few bowlers in the world are better than him.”
Ahead of the South Africa Test series, India suffered a huge blow as Jasprit Bumrah got ruled out due to a minor stress fracture in his lower back. The ace speedster is currently in UK to seek opinion on his injury from multiple specialists.
When asked if he is concerned about Bumrah’s stress fracture, Shastri said: “Very concerned because he is precious, he’s special, he’s different, and he’s a match-winner. They are taking opinions on whether he needs surgery. We have to be careful about his workload because he plays all three formats.”
Apart from Bumrah, India all-rounder Hardik Pandya recently underwent a surgery to treat his lower back issue which has ruled him out of cricket for an indefinite period.
Commenting on Pandya, Ravi said: “His surgery was successful. What the recovery shows we will know in two weeks' time. He’s a game-changer and ideally we would want him in every format.”