'Be unorthodox, use your feet, get to the pitch of the ball' - Rohit explains how to bat on turners in India

"You can't let the bowler bowl six balls on the spot, you got to try and do something different, and that can be your way of doing it"

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
Rohit Sharma drives towards cover, India vs Australia, 1st Test, Nagpur, 2nd day, February 10, 2023

Rohit Sharma used deft footwork during his century  •  BCCI

After 24 of the 30 wickets were taken by spinners in the Nagpur Test, which India won by an innings and 132 runs, their captain Rohit Sharma has laid down the template for how to play on turning pitches: use your feet, be a bit unorthodox, try to sweep and reverse sweep, and put pressure on the bowler.
The lead up to the first Test of the series was dominated by how the pitch was going to be a turner, how it looked, how there were patches outside the off stump for left-hand batters to help India's spinners as Australia played as many as four left-hand batters in the top seven. India's frontline batters also didn't succeed much against spin but Rohit showed the way with his knock of 120 and later explained how he had prepared for such pitches.
"The last few years the kind of pitches we have been playing in India, you got to have application, a clear mindset and some sort of plan about how you want to go about and get those runs," Rohit said at the presentation. "Since I started opening the batting, I have tried to figure out what can threaten me when I'm batting, and working out my methods of scoring runs. I have grown up playing a lot in Mumbai on surfaces which turn a lot. I feel you need to be unorthodox as well, you need to use your feet, you need to get to the pitch of the ball, and at the same time try and put pressure on the bowler as well.
"You can't let the bowler bowl six balls on the spot, you got to try and do something different, and that something different can be your way of doing it, whether it's stepping down the ground, sweeping, reverse sweeping, going over the top…there are so many things that you can do and it's important when you play on pitches like that, you need to understand what is your strength, what are the things you can do, and not look at anyone else. I tried to figure out what are things I can do and I just try and go an apply myself out in the middle."
Rohit was pleased to put his hand up at the start of such a high-profile series, given India's standing in the WTC table, especially because he was returning to Tests after injuries, having played only two in the format in 2022. After the win, India continue to be second on the WTC points table with a win percentage of 61.67, behind Australia's 70.83% and ahead of Sri Lanka's 53.33%. India need to win two more of the remaining three in the series to seal a final berth.
"Yeah, it was [a special hundred], considering a lot of things," Rohit said. "It was the start of the series, very important where we stand in the championship table, it was important for us to start well. We know when you're playing a series like this it's important to start well and I was happy that I could put up a performance which could help the team."
Rohit was named India's full-time Test captain in February last year but he played only two of India's five Tests since then, missing the Birmingham Test in England in July, and the two Tests in Bangladesh late last year because of a thumb injury. In fact, Rohit had missed eight of India's last 10 Test matches before arriving in Nagpur.
"Ya, I was unfortunate I had to miss a few Test matches because of injuries but I'm happy that I'm back and doing well for the team," he said. "Yes, since I was appointed as the Test captain I played only two Test matches, I got Covid in England, and then I had to miss three Test matches in South Africa because of injury, and again a freak injury in Bangladesh with my thumb. All those things can happen when you are playing for a long time, but I've had a lot of injuries in the past so I know how to come back from those and be ready for it, and I was pretty much ready for this one as well. Like I said, we wanted to start well and I'm glad we could put in a performance like that."

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo