VVS Laxman has offered two tips to Rohit Sharma ahead of the World Test Championship final against New Zealand starting Friday: know where your off stump is to leave the ball outside off and don't take the left leg across too much while facing Trent Boult, who is likely to swing the ball into the batter. Laxman was speaking at a virtual press conference organised by broadcaster Star Sports, with Ian Bishop and Shane Bond as his co-panelists.
"I think not only for Rohit but for every opener, it's very important to know where your off stump is," Laxman said. "And Rohit, since the time he has opened for the Indian team even in Indian conditions against South Africa, the way he knew where his off stump was, he was very disciplined at the start of the innings. And if Rohit can replicate that in England, I'm sure he will perform well.
"We all know what an unbelievable and talented batsman he is. He is a match-winner for the Indian team. But knowing where your off stump is and letting go of the balls outside the off stump in the channel of uncertainty is something which Rohit requires to focus on.
"Another challenge is in the form of Trent Boult who can get the ball in. So I think he also knows that against Trent Boult, he cannot take his left leg across, he has to play as much as possible with the full face of the bat back towards the bowler and the umpire. These are the two things Rohit definitely requires to address at the start of the innings."
Bond, meanwhile, believes Sharma has the ability impose himself on bowling attacks like Matthew Hayden did during his time. The former New Zealand quick is part of the Mumbai Indians, of which both Sharma and Boult are part of. The trio were part of the IPL-winning Mumbai Indians team in the UAE last September.
"Even during the IPL season, Trent Boult was running in, swinging the ball and hitting him (Rohit Sharma) on the pads and telling him, 'that's what is going to happen in the World Test Championship final'"Shane Bond reveals snippets of conversation from the Mumbai Indians dressing room
Bond chuckled that banter for the WTC final between Sharma and Boult had started well in advance, during the 2021 IPL season.
"What I do know is that even during the IPL season, Trent Boult was running in, swinging the ball and hitting him (Sharma) on the pads and telling him, 'that's what is going to happen in the World Test Championship final'," Bond said with a hearty laugh. "So he was talking about it four months in advance, there was banter going on, which was just brilliant. Those two were very aware that they were going to come up against each other.
"I love Rohit Sharma as a player, I see him almost in a Matt Hayden kind of role where he goes out, as he did against England in the series in India on very difficult wickets, and he imposes himself. He could come out and score very quickly, he's that sort of player, very dynamic in difficult conditions, like a Rishabh Pant, can take the game away from a team in a very good hour even when New Zealand are bowling with the new ball. So with the field up and he's such a stroke-maker, it sort of suits him being at the top of the order when the ball is hard.
"There's obviously some areas in his game which New Zealand will look to exploit but what he does do is he scores fast and if he can score fast and put runs on the board, that instantly puts pressure on the bowling attack and there's nothing worse as a bowler than going for runs, especially if you're trying to pitch the ball up. I can't wait for the Boult-Sharma battle, with all the banter that's been going on and I'm expecting a few smiles between the boys as well."
For the rest of the Indian batting line-up as well, Laxman emphasised on how playing the ball late would help them in covering the late swing of the Dukes ball.
"What the batsmen require to remember if they want to succeed in England is to know where there off stump is, and also always look for the full ball and a good, long, big stride," Laxman said. "What that enables them to do is to play the ball late, allow the ball to come close to them and they can then cover the late swing which the bowlers will extract with the Dukes ball and also the lateral movement which probably they can extract because of the conditions there."
Boult further said it was New Zealand 's "best chance" to take home an ICC trophy after finishing runners-up in the 2015 and 2019 ODI World Cups, and expected them to play five quick bowlers by picking Colin de Grandhomme ahead of spinner Ajaz Patel, who was named in the final 15 ahead of Mitchell Santner on Tuesday.
Laxman and Bishop both predicted India to pick five batters, Pant as the wicketkeeper at No. 6, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as the spin-bowling allrounders, and three fast bowlers.
Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo