Rohit Sharma attracted criticism from pundits and fans alike for the shot he played to be out caught at long-on in the Brisbane Test, but said he didn't regret it one bit as it was part of the role he was playing for the team. He said it was important in this slow-scoring series for the batsmen to take the initiative and put the pressure back on the bowlers, and that he was just trying to play a shot he has played often - except that on this occasion, Nathan Lyon outsmarted him.
"I was actually trying to pierce the long-on and that deep square-leg fielder [as he did in Sydney too, successfully], but it didn't connect the way I would have loved to," Sharma explained. "Pretty simple. It was something I won't regret. It is something I like to do. I like to put the pressure on the bowler once I am in, and that is my role in the team. To make sure I keep putting that pressure on the bowlers because we have seen throughout the series how run-scoring has been difficult for both the teams.
"So somewhere, someone needs to put his hand up and think about how we can put the pressure back on the bowlers. And while doing that there are chances you will make a mistake, and you should be ready to accept that. I am ready to accept that because it was a plan. It was something that wasn't beyond our plans. It was something that we always planned. I actually have no regrets playing that shot. It is something I like to do. Just that Nathan Lyon - we all know he is a smart bowler - bowled into me, which made it difficult for me to get some elevation."
The dismissal sparked severe comment from former cricketers. Sunil Gavaskar on air called it an irresponsible shot, a wicket gifted away. This has been the criticism of Sharma's batting in the past too, when he has gotten off to starts and then played such an aerial shot seemingly out of nowhere.
"It is not coming out of nowhere," Sharma said. "It is a shot that I play. And I have played it very well in the past. It is something that I really back myself to do all the time. That is the kind of role I play in this team. Yes, when it looks like that, it looks bad, but that is something I don't think too much into. Of course, I like to make it count and make it big but having said that there is a process which I like to follow, and the process is obviously to make sure that once I am in I am on top of the bowlers, and that I am trying to keep the pressure on the opposition bowlers.
"Sometimes you get out; sometimes it goes over the rope, but yeah, I mean, it was unfortunate and a very sad dismissal, to be honest. Again those are my shots and I will keep playing them."
Even when watching the first two Tests during his quarantine in Sydney, Sharma felt India needed to be more proactive in scoring against the superior Australia attack. "Watching the first two Tests while I was in quarantine, I saw the discipline the Australian bowling had," he said. "You have to try to figure out a way to score runs against these guys. They won't give anything easy so it is something I was trying to think about my batting while I was not playing.
"The team has shown confidence in my ability at the top. Just that I have to do what the team expects me to do. Not to worry about what happens anywhere else and what people talk about me"Rohit Sharma
"It is something that really worked in the first half of my batting. Just getting closer to the ball, making sure I leave anything slightly outside off. And then once I am in, play the shots as well because that is what you want. At the end of the day, you want to score runs. And try and see how they react when you are scoring runs. That is something I did. It worked out until I got out."
Other than the eventual dismissal, Sharma has looked arguably the most comfortable at the top of the order in a series that has, in keeping with Test cricket today, been a nightmare for the openers. This was the first time he was opening away from home, and his three scores have been 26, 52 and 44.
"I have opened for India in limited overs for a long time and it is time for me to test myself in this longer format as well," he said. "The team has shown confidence in my ability at the top. Just that I have to do what the team expects me to do. Not to worry about what happens anywhere else and what people talk about me. The team expects me to play a certain role at the top of the order, and I will try to do that as much as I can.
"We saw in Sydney there wasn't much bounce, so I was just trying to stay leg side of the ball. I knew [the] lines and lengths they bowl here [in Brisbane], they try to test you outside the off stump all the time so I was trying to move towards off to make sure I cover the line and not push my hands outside off stump. That is the little adjustment I made.
"I actually liked what I did there [before being dismissed]. Before coming here, we knew it is going to be a good pitch to bat. Of course, there is going to be some bounce, the carry through to the keeper, which I actually enjoy. Once I was in, and I played a few overs, a few balls, I realised there was not much swing so I did a little adjustment there. I started coming on the off stumps, which helped me get on the ball. After that, the unfortunate dismissal..."
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo