Rohit Sharma has laughed off the notion that he might have been under pressure coming into this Test after scoring 82 from the challenging 43 for 4 in India's second innings. His highest Test score since his two centuries in his first two Tests, against West Indies, all but batted New Zealand out of the Kolkata Test, taking India's lead to an imposing 339 at the end of the third day. To ensure Rohit's latest comeback into the Test XI, Cheteshwar Pujara was dropped. After that Test, India have started playing with four bowlers in the side, opting for both Pujara and Rohit.
"As far as I'm concerned, there's no pressure," Rohit said. "Every time I play it only comes from the media that I'm under pressure. But as far as I am concerned I was never under pressure. You may have seen me on the field. I'm going to ask you this, do I look under pressure when I was playing? Even in the first Test or the second Test."
In India press conferences there is hardly any follow-up so this proved to be a rhetoric question from Rohit's side, but when he walked out to bat India sure were under pressure, after another top-order failure. They were one wicket away from needing the lower order's rescue operations once again. As a No. 6, Rohit has to be that bridge between the top and the lower order, which he did perfectly in this innings.
"It's not a typical Calcutta wicket," Rohit said of the challenges of batting there. "They have relaid the surface and you may seen uneven bounce occasionally. Every now and then there was uneven bounce. At no point the batsmen could relax and take it for granted. Every ball you played, you had to make sure give more than 100% for that ball.
"So me and Saha, when we were batting, we only decided we had to play each ball on its merit, not to think too far ahead, not to think what was coming next, focus on the present, which was every ball thrown at us. So we were focussed on that. We lost a few wickets initially and it was all about rebuilding the partnership. We have seen over the years in Test match cricket there have been quick wickets, and it takes only one or two batsmen to make sure that you get the team out of trouble. Saha and myself, that 100-run partnership was crucial according to the team's perspective."
Once Rohit was in, he vindicated Virat Kohli's support in his aggressive batting. Switching gears he made sure New Zealand couldn't control the game. "Once we got in, we played our shots as well and we wanted to put the pressure back on New Zealand," Rohit said. "Because it's a wicket and a ground where, if you play your shots, you will get value for your shots as the outfield is fast. It's just the matter of playing those initial few balls and getting your eye in. Because then you can accelerate. So that's what we did. We have got two important days coming up and almost 340 ahead. We all know Saha and Bhuvi can bat as well. So try to get as much as we can tomorrow morning."
Before he came into bat, Rohit would have seen Shikhar Dhawan take blows on his body through excessive spongy bounce. While batting Rohit would have also seen the shooter that got Kohli. Rohit said because of the uneven bounce it was important to not commit to either foot or a shot early. "It's a situation where you can't go too forward also, you can't play on your back foot as well," Rohit said. "The ball which Shikhar got hit, it pitched right in front and it just kicked off from there. So that made sure we can't go too ahead also, you can't go on the front foot completely. You have to make sure you are balanced in the middle and try and play as late as possible. It was something which I looking to do. Even in the nets, I made sure that I batted as late as possible."
Rohit has seen his lower order rescue his side often, and he paid them a fitting tribute. "We don't have tailenders," Rohit said. "They are proper lower-order batsmen. Ashwin has got Test hundreds, Saha has got a hundred, Bhuvi occasionally has scored a fifty - he has scored fifties in England, Jadeja has scored runs. You never know Shami might get a fifty tomorrow."
If Rohit hasn't yet pushed the matter past New Zealand, that occurrence certainly will.