Ian Chappell: Opening the batting prevents Rohit Sharma from being ‘overawed by Virat Kohli’s popularity’
Ian Chappell has praised Rohit Sharma for his recent success with the bat in Test cricket, and offered his take as to why opening the batting suits him to such a degree.
Rohit has been one of Test cricket’s most prolific batters over the last few years, with his promotion to opener coinciding with an upturn in form. He averaged under 40 until late 2018, when he was pushed up to face the new ball against South Africa. Since then, Rohit has averaged 57.65 – the third-highest of any opener in Test history, with a cut-off of 1,000 runs.
Chappell, writing for ESPNcricinfo, praised the move to promote Rohit as saving his career, while also suggesting that the reason for the uptick was him coming out of Virat Kohli’s shadow.
“The move to open in Test cricket saved Rohit’s career,” Chappell said. “He looked like he might waste his enormous skill down the order but batting above Virat Kohli has prevented him being overawed by the ex-captain’s popularity.”
Chappell also suggested captaincy suited Rohit, though the India great has only led his country in three Tests to date. He has been India’s all-format captain since late 2021, but injury has hampered his chances to lead in the longest format. “Captaincy has also played a big part in Rohit’s revival; the discipline required to lead a team has added another level to his batting,” Chappell said.
Chappell praised Rohit as showing the right way to negotiate turning pitches and called on Australia to stop paying so much attention to conditions. Rohit’s century was the top score in India’s innings win in the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, with talk over the pitch dominating the build-up to the series.
“The state of the pitch was put into perspective by the Indian captain Rohit Sharma,” he said. “He played a masterful innings that displayed confidence in his own defence, his wide stroke range on a turning – but not impossible pitch – and his ironclad discipline.
“Rohit’s confidence in his defence was crucial. If a player doesn’t trust his defence on Indian pitches he can easily be panicked into trying to do something that he’s not capable of, and this ends up in an embarrassing dismissal.
“Not only did Rohit reveal a wide range of shots, he also frustrated the Australian bowlers with the way he only played them when the time was right. He showed all players, home and touring, how to play on Indian pitches, and his example was flawlessly followed by the much improved Ravindra Jadeja.”