Rohit Sharma’s contribution at the top would certainly be massive if India are to put New Zealand under pressure in the World Test Championship final beginning at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Friday.
But how Rohit negotiates the swing of Trent Boult and how well he’s able to counter the other New Zealand quicks would also be one of the determining factors in the decider.
“Not just for Rohit, but it’s important for any opener to know where his off-stump is. Rohit, since the time he has opened and the way he played against South Africa (at home in late 2019), was very disciplined at the start of his innings. If he can replicate that in England, he will surely perform well.
“We all know he’s a match-winner for the Indian team, but knowing where his off-stump is and letting the balls go outside the off stump whenever it’s pitched at that channel is something where he requires to focus on.
“He has got another challenge in the form of Trent Boult, who tends to bring the ball back in. I think Rohit also knows that against Boult, he cannot play across the line and should look to play as much as possible with the full face of the bat, which should be towards the bowler,” VVS Laxman said on Tuesday during a virtual interaction organised by Star Sports along with Shane Bond and Ian Bishop.
Rohit and Boult also had a banter or two about the WTC final during Mumbai Indians’ training, Bond shared, while also pointing out similarities in the role of the India white-ball vice-captain with that of former Australia opener Matthew Hayden.
“What I do know is even during the IPL season, Boult was running in, swinging the ball in and hitting Rohit on the pad and telling him, ‘That’s what’s going to happen in the WTC final’... Talking about that months in advance, those two were aware that they were going to come up against each other,” former New Zealand pace spearhead Bond, now MI bowling coach, said.
Bond added: “I see Rohit in an almost Matthew Hayden type role, where he goes out and imposes himself. He is that sort of a player, very dynamic even in difficult conditions, like a Rishabh Pant... Can take the game away in a good hour or so even with New Zealand bowling with the new ball.
“There are obviously some areas in his game where New Zealand can look to exploit, but he scores runs fast which puts pressure on the bowling attack. Nothing worse for a bowler than going for runs.”
The anticipation of a mouth-watering contest between Rohit and Boult aside, India’s batsmen should make certain adjustments in order to succeed in English conditions, Laxman said.
“Batsmen should know where their off-stump is, always look for the full ball and have a good long, big stride that enables them to play the ball late. If they allow the ball to come close to them, they can cover the late swing, which bowlers can get because of the Dukes and also the lateral movement owing to the conditions in England.
“But ultimately, you have to trust and play to your strengths regardless of the format. And I believe this Indian team will do so,” Laxman explained.