Critics need to be less harsh on Rohit - Bangar
Sanjay Bangar, the India batting coach, has hit back at Rohit Sharma's critics, saying that the batsman has "definitely contributed to the team's cause". Bangar also praised Cheteshwar Pujara but backed the decision to prefer Rohit over him.
"If you look at the numbers, he has played 13  Test matches and scored 800-900  runs at an average of 40 [37.82] with two centuries, four half-centuries. I think if his critics can go back and compare the first 13 Test matches of any other cricketer who has played for a while, I think they would probably be less harsh on Rohit," Bangar told ESPNcricinfo in an interview after completing a year as India batting coach. "I believe that in the matches he has played so far - obviously everybody wants to contribute more - he has definitely contributed to the team's cause."
Bangar insisted that the team management decided to play Rohit at No. 3 in the fourth and final Test in Australia since "Pujara was having a tough time". Bangar, however, admitted that once Rohit was brought lower down the order, the move worked better for the batsman and the team.
"We are clear in our mind that we need to give enough time and opportunity for a player if we put him at a particular position before making the change. Pujara was having a tough time, so he [Rohit] was given a fair run at No. 3. He batted very well in Sydney (53 & 39). He got starts in both the innings but could not convert it into a big one.
"Bangladesh was just one innings. But you could see that just three innings prior to P Sara (second Test against Sri Lanka), he was scoring runs at No. 3. After those five opportunities, we felt that moving him down the order would benefit the team more. And it also made sure that he got some time because he also had put a lot of pressure on himself to perform. Somebody who constantly wants to contribute to the team's cause. And it worked out beautifully. In both the Test matches (P Sara and SSC), he played vital innings for the team."
With the new Test captain Virat Kohli stressing on playing five bowlers, Pujara has had to sit out. But Bangar was delighted with the way Pujara played a match-winning innings as a stopgap opener in India's series-decider at the SSC.
"Pujara has tremendous hunger, tremendous temperament. Again somebody who had a dip in his career but who is right up there. This is the batting group which is going to be the core of India's batting for the next five years. Obviously there are going to be players who are going to miss out because of injuries but every new player who has come in has scored runs."
Pujara appears to get bogged down, especially at the start of his innings. His inability to take singles consistently tends to put pressure on the batsman at the other end. Bangar, however, didn't single him out for failing to rotate strike.
"Strike rotation is something we are all making our batsmen (aware) of. We are working on it. It is not only for one individual batsman but it is for the entire batting group. How you can achieve it is you need to know the fields, you need to know the bowling plans, you need to play with softer hands closer to the body. That is an awareness the batting group is working on and there has been a marked improvement in that area."
Bangar, along with bowling coach B Arun and fielding coach R Sridhar, is the first Indian member of the team's support staff in five years. According to Bangar, the trio has made a strong case for the Indian coaches' fraternity.
"Being a group of Indian coaches, there was a bit of pressure to justify that Indian coaches can handle the national team effectively. There also was an additional sense of responsibility towards the Indian coaching fraternity. And I think we have been able to maintain the standards. That is something that I think we have been able to achieve."
The assistant coaches, along with team director Ravi Shastri, have been working on a series-by-series basis. With the BCCI still not sure about the structure of the support staff, none of the coaches has been appointed for a longer term. While Bangar admitted that "ideally" it would be better if coaches are assured of a longer tenure, he said it wasn't a concern.
"It's a massive privilege to be able to discharge the duties of batting coach of the Indian team. Ideally, a longer stint is better for the individual concerned but again even if it's just for a series, it's a huge opportunity and accomplishment."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo