Flexible Rohit backs shot-making ability
Rohit Sharma's batting position is a heated topic of discussion in Indian cricket, with the common choices being No. 3, No. 5 and outside the XI. He has been persisted with through the Test series in Sri Lanka, and has ended the series scoring more runs - 202 - than any other Indian batsman barring his captain Virat Kohli. Rohit's 50 on Monday came alongside two fifty-plus partnerships, with Kohli for the fourth wicket and Stuart Binny for the fifth, after India had been left wobbling at 7 for 3 at the start of their second innings.
Rohit said he was ready to bat wherever the team management wanted him to: "See it's really what captain and management wants from this order. My preference is to bat wherever team asks me to. If you ask anyone, they are not going to say this is my number. Nowhere it is written in the world that No.4 belongs to this person, No. 3 belongs to this person. If you understand well and good."
When pressed further to name his favourite position, he said: "As a batsman you want to bat as up the order as possible to get more opportunities, to face more balls, and score big runs. Again, the management felt I should bat at five and they came and spoke to me and I was okay to do whatever they want me to do. The same thing happened to me in ODIs as well, they felt I should open because of whatever abilities I have. So I agree to do what they want me to do. I cannot have my own preference. It's a team game and you do what the team wants from you."
Fitting Rohit into the batting order has been tricky issue for the team, particularly given the competition for the middle-order spots. When Rohit was asked about feeling the pressure of this kind of a situation in every innings he played, he said: "The pressure I feel will be on the management and the captain to decide the XI, not on me. I have to play my game when I get an opportunity. That's how I look at it."
Like he had in his last two innings in Colombo, Rohit was dismissed shortly before an interval. On Monday, he was out pulling Dhammika Prasad to long leg with around 15 minutes left to go to lunch.
Rohit, though, stressed he would back himself to play his shots instead of just hanging around when asked what he thought of the public perception that he was far too frequently, 'throwing his wicket away.'
"If you look at the game carefully the first morning I played that same shot with Pradeep bowling from that end, and I played a very similar shot which got me four runs. I am sure all of you sitting here, must have clapped… that's how it works. I will back myself and whenever I bat I have an intent to score runs, not to just be there and survive. That's how I want to play my cricket and to stay ahead of the bowlers' mind. That's what I try and do always. Sometimes, that ball could have gone a little behind him, it could have fetched me six runs. Went straight into his hands. It's unfortunate. But that's my shot. I will keep playing it, it gets me runs also. As I said, I am not going to shy away from playing shots."
Rohit shares a prickly relationship with the media and said once again that he paid no attention to any external opinion about his batting or himself: "I have zero expectations outside. What happens (outside) is irrelevant to me, you know because what happens outside is not going to help my cricket. What is going to help my cricket is me working hard, doing what I have been doing in the nets and getting better as a player everyday. And I will stick to it.
"It has happened to me in the past and you know till you play it will keep happening as a sportsman no one goes through a very clean patch. They will have some sort of up and down in their career. I am no different and I can say things have been up and down, but as long as I am enjoying my cricket nothing can stop me. I am really enjoying with the boys, enjoying the victories we are having and yeah I am a very positive person. I look to think ahead what is ahead of me and going into this Test match again I wanted to make a contribution. You will not score a hundred all the time. Any sort of contribution that can help your team is more than enough for me."
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo