Mumbai Indians v Gujarat Lions, IPL 2017, Mumbai April 16, 2017

Rohit changes strategy to tackle spinners


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'We were challenged by the conditions' - Rohit Sharma

A counter-intuitive approach to tackling spin at the start of the innings has helped Rohit Sharma overcome his recent poor run. His unbeaten 29-ball 40 against Gujarat Lions at Wankhede Stadium not only broke a streak of four single-digit scores, but was also instrumental in Mumbai Indians acing a chase of 177 with six wickets in hand and moving to top of the table with their fourth win in five games.

Coming into the game, Rohit had scores of 0, 4, 2 and 3 and each of his dismissals was against spin bowling. He was bowled and lbw twice each, with three legspinners - Imran Tahir, Rashid Khan and Samuel Badree - and Sunil Narine accounting for him. Incidentally, on Sunday, Lions' team sheet featured no legspinner and had only one specialist spinner in Ravindra Jadeja. Rohit wasn't complaining one bit.

"I thought you will ask me about the win," a visibly happy Rohit joked after the first question in the post-match press conference. He then went on to expand on where he felt he had gone wrong in the earlier matches. "It was just a simple mistake. I was trying to play with the spin, which is what we're taught, but these guys (legspinners) were bowling googlies, so I had to play against it.

"The first ball, you never play against the spin. That's something which I was supposed to do there but I didn't because, when you go in...yes, it's a challenging tournament, bowlers will keep challenging you every now and then. You have to be prepared for it.

"I went back to the drawing board and analysed what went wrong and today, I decided to play straight; I decided to not play in the 'V'. I know it sounds stupid to not to play in the 'V' but that's how it is now. These days games have changed so much. And luckily, they had only one spinner (laughs).

"Yeah, it is good to get some runs. I have been a little let down at the start of the tournament. That is not the standard I expect of myself. Nevertheless, what is gone is gone. I'm not thinking too much about it. As long as we win, everything is good. Today was again a great win."

As a regular opener for India in ODIs and T20s, the decision to bat himself at the top must have been tempting, but Rohit felt his promotion would hinder Mumbai's balance. This was particularly relevant because Nitish Rana has played some impactful knocks at No. 3. He has racked up scores of 53, 11, 45, 50 and 34 and is currently the leading run-scorer in the tournament.

"I would love to open, but certain things you got to think from the team's perspective as well. Being the captain of the team, you have to think about the right balance," Rohit said.

"Batting at [No.] 4, 3 gives us the balance we want. Last year, we felt that we wanted someone to just bat till the end and it wasn't happening and we weren't able to finish games. This is probably one of the reasons I have to take that decision to come down at 3, 4. I am open to anything the team requires. If we see, where I have to go and open, I will go and open also. I am not closing my options. Right now probably 3, 4 is the best position.

"I also don't want to change too much of the batting as well because the guy at 3 [Rana] just got an orange cap, so I don't want to change his position. He is a brilliant batsman and we're going to see more and more of them throughout the tournament. He is a fearless cricketer and he likes to take on the bowlers straight away. That's the ideal position for him to bat."

Rohit also lauded his team for coping well with the conditions in two back-to-back afternoon games. "Every win is important against whichever team. We don't play the opposition, we play the team," he said. "A lot of credit to the players - each and everybody. To have four consecutive wins is never easy. We were challenged a little bit in terms of conditions - we played a 4pm game in Bangalore and we played a 4pm game in Mumbai here. It's not easy with the humidity and the heat. So hats off to all the guys for putting their hands up and taking the responsibility."

Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Arul on April 20, 2017, 11:28 GMT

    After failing against international bowlers in the games before, Rohit changed the strategy to put himself against local Indian bowlers and guess what, he found his touch!! great talent yeh!

  • hemant5961337 on April 18, 2017, 12:39 GMT

    people are so funny that always talk about rohit fails in ipl .. he is playing after 8 months 2 match practice before ipl .. and everyone wants him to play big... what good did kohli do in aus series ? and what good mr rahane or dhawan did ?

  • hemant5961337 on April 18, 2017, 12:37 GMT

    if winning toss = winning game ...then whats the point of playing.. toss is enough ... one has to understand whats important for team ask dhawan gambhir or kohli or even rahane ask to finish the innings ...they cant finish innings .. the ability to play as finisher role requires talent.. rohit is already a proven finisher for MI. whats the point in who is batting at open ?

  • Satish on April 18, 2017, 9:01 GMT

    Mumbai and KKR looks unassailable - Because, they have won the game chasing from any position. You can;t relax after picking 3 or 4 in powerplay. You will face more guys who will smack and chase it down eventually. How good is to have 7 match winning batsmen.

  • Adito on April 17, 2017, 13:53 GMT

    Don't understand why Rohit plays at No.4 for MI. As Gavaskar explained in one of the pre talk shows this season, every captain has his own reason to bat below the position they would if they play not as captain. Rohit's best position is at the top order

    I hope Rohit opens with Butler (or Rana if they need the left-right combination and Butler at No.3) and Parthiv Patel should be moved to the lower order (below No.7 or so) to give their hitters more time at the crease.

  • Adito on April 17, 2017, 13:00 GMT

    Mumbai Indians playing 11 looks the strongest of all teams this IPL. The best about their team this year is that their playing 11 is settled and all their have players have understood their responsibilities and perform them successfully, even in high pressure situations. They have understood the value and experience Harbhajan brings and correctly brought him to the 11, they could have won the first match against Pune as well had he played, given Smith had surprisingly struggled a bit against off-spinners in the previous editions of IPL. Also Rayudu's injury came as a blessing in disguise for Nitesh Rana, he looks like he belongs at this level. The Pandya brothers and Pollard have performed extremely well to win the 2 games that they almost lost against KKR and RCB. Butler gave them good starts in 3 of the matches, I believe a big knock from him is on the way. Rohit finally got to spend time at the crease against GL, hope he will play as we all know in the remaining games.

  •   Yasintha Lakmal Rajawansha on April 17, 2017, 12:20 GMT

    Not impressed with Malinga., although he took the crucial wicket of Brendon Mac. It's true that he returned after 2 years. But fans don't expect him to concede 50+ in four overs.Relying on slower balls may cut- off runs,but taking wicket is the main thing because he is considered an attacking bowler.

  • JonJon9880850 on April 17, 2017, 9:42 GMT

    One 40 score and here they go .. "Sharmas" ... this guy and Ishant enjoyed huge backing by management and some "fans" always try to make them look relevant. Come on guys ... for the sake of 100 crore people. CRICINFO PLEASE publish. Thanks!

  • Debra on April 17, 2017, 8:33 GMT

    he decided to "no hit" in the V. brought him rewards. wonder if he could, thus, decide to "no hit" elsewhere too, might bring him the first IPL triple century!

  • Utpal on April 17, 2017, 5:50 GMT

    Not a fan of Rohit - the test batsman but got to say that along with Gambhir, he is among 2 best captains in IPL. much better than you-know-who former captains

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