Rohit changes strategy to tackle spinners
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