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‘I’ve protected myself with a shield around me, nothing comes inside that’ – Rohit Sharma

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Rohit Sharma, India’s latest Test opener, has revealed that his promotion to the top of the order wasn’t an impulsive one, with discussions to that end dating as far back as two years ago.

Before the Visakhapatnam Test against South Africa, Rohit had never opened an innings in Test cricket, and averaged 39.62 after 27 matches in the middle order. Now, centuries in each innings have infused new life to his Test career, lifting his average to 44.95 and diffusing doubts, to a certain extent, about his ability as a long-format batsman.

“That communication between management and myself happened a long time ago that I might have to do that [open the innings] at some stage,” Rohit said, after claiming the Player of the Match award for his 176 and 127 in India’s 203-run win. “So, for the past two or three years, I was prepared for it mentally.”

In 2013, Rohit realised his long-awaited Test dream, slamming 177 at No.6 on debut against West Indies, and followed it up with 111* in the next game. However, he couldn’t sustain that form in red-ball cricket in the years to follow and had a stop-start Test career, even as he flourished in the limited-overs formats.

“Whenever I was not playing a Test match, in the nets I was batting with the new ball trying to be ready if the opportunity comes,” he said.

The inability to translate his white-ball success in Tests prompted widespread criticism, with his judgement and technique against the swinging new ball in foreign conditions coming under scrutiny. Between 2013 and 2017, he did not hit a single Test ton, and was constantly moved in and out of the Test side.

Rohit said that only made him stronger. “What happens outside, I never thought [about] when I was young … what people will talk, whether people will talk about me,” said Rohit. “Now that people are talking about me, I have protected myself with a shield around me, and that shield is pretty strong. Nothing comes inside that.

“So what people talk, and what people think of me, it doesn’t really bother me. Eventually I have to play my game, and I have to enjoy my game because it was my dream to play cricket. And I am living that dream.

“It’s a great start and I have a long way to go. It’s not the end, it’s the start. Good things are about to follow.”

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