India news September 12, 2013

Rohit happy with new role as opener

ESPNcricinfo staff

Rohit Sharma, the India batsman, has said his recent stint as ODI opener was the result of discussions with his captain MS Dhoni, who believed he had the skills to handle the moving ball. Batting at the top of the order, Rohit said, had given him more time to get acquainted with the conditions, which helped lend consistency to his game.

"We (Rohit and MS Dhoni) haven't spoken at length about this," Rohit told Times of India. "But whatever little MS spoke with me, he did suggest that I have the ability to open the batting and counter the new ball. I'm glad he finds me capable of it and I've also been working hard on it."

With the new ICC rules of having a new ball at either end in ODIs, Rohit said the job had got more challenging. "Oh yes, facing two new balls is not easy. The new rules have had an impact and we're happy we could manage to do well and adjust to them. As far as opening is concerned, it is about how mentally strong you are, what kind of pressure you can manage to take and deliver."

Rohit first opened for India in January 2011 during the tour of South Africa, but had a lean return with only 29 runs in three innings. He was given the role again during the home ODIs against England this January, and immediately made an impact, scoring 83 in Mohali. Taking into account his performance this year, Rohit has scored 580 runs at 41.42 in 16 innings as an opener, which is nine runs higher than his career average (32.37). He has also struck six fifties during this period but no centuries.

Rohit is aware of how heavy expectations can be. "Well, earlier it was about not getting runs, now it's about not converting 50s into 100s. I'm sure next it's going to be about not converting 100s into 150s. I don't know why people pick on these things so easily.

"Okay, I do understand that challenge is a good thing and it makes you work harder. But I've also just started playing a new role in the team (as opener). It's been just four months. People do expect too much in a very limited period of time. I know people want me to do well. But sometimes, these expectations are just too high.

"I'd personally like to believe that as long as the team is winning, the contributions are in place and players are taking care of the responsibility assigned to them, it's fine. Probably, the next step is to be the match-winner and be consistent at it. It will happen with time. It's a learning process forever."

When asked whether his concentration was a concern, Rohit said: "No. That's not the case at all. There's so much competition, you cannot afford to think like that. If you look at my first-class statistics, I have 16 hundreds and 20 50s, which means I hold an appetite for longer innings.

"I have three double-hundreds and a triple. I like to bat longer. Recently, on the A tour of South Africa, I played 250 balls to get my hundred in the first Test. It has not been my nature to play that kind of an innings. But eventually I was glad I did it. It was very satisfying. It is something I will keep working on."

India's next limited-overs assignment is a home series against Australia beginning on October 10.